04.09.2018. These Notes, and this is a strangely – for a generic name ON THE INTERNET – fitting term for what is not intended for writing, point to sound and light variations more than to what is made of words and what, allegedly, carries meanings. Notes are not blogs, slogs or frogs. Notes do not jump on you. They are indeed points that aim to fix. They also are what one whispers in awe or frustration, they are those hostages of emotion that are not at all about expression; yet, they are to be expressed, if only under the breath in the ear of THE lover, these intimations, imitations, incidentals.
Born out of a long and by now more complicated life than the author has ever desired, these Notes are nonetheless too fleeting to carry any wisdom, to connote in general. They are beyond and aside of a directed gaze, or any direction to that matter. They are not directionals that blink (blinkers). Too soft, too weak, too… ah, occasional and too soon to matter. They are written, yes, still written, but for no particular audience in mind and without any particular purpose. Just so.
06.09.2018. The beginning of a story. It always comes after the light is off and the eyes are firmly closed and not aching any more from too much seeing during the day. Like in when staring outside shifts to staring inside and the inner space gets illuminated. What a show! A pity it is missed by all but the Self and Another Self, a presence on stage and a presence offstage, sitting leisurely in the first row directing the incoming dreams. The title of the story is A Man Who Burnt Hitler. His name is Antoine Swartz. He likes his name. It makes him think that it matches his SS uniform and his darker skin to a ‘T’ (no, of course, he is still very Arian, he passed all the checks, but he comes from the North Eastern German stock (G. Grass’ geography of Flounder comes to mind); hence, his thick black hair, merry freckles around the eyes, and a long lanky figure, you know, the one that is so good for goosestepping – alas, another trite allusion). His parents named him after obscure French politician Antoine Plissart. Like many Germans, they were in love with France. Well, perhaps, but, certainly, not for long. When meeting women, he would introduce himself by saying ‘an-tu-ann,’ stressing the last syllable, only to watch one more fair-haired Fräulein melt and become one less.
Speaking of the Nazis, the daughter of a friend from Boston I used to know years ago (most of the people I used to know qualify nowadays to be called ‘used to know,’ ‘some time,’ ‘former this or that,’ or just ‘ex,’ them being somehow gone as if pushed out of circulation by some relational expiration date), well, this young woman called BMW cars ‘fascist.’ There is something to it if you place the front of the car, its (in)famous two eyed grid, underneath the vanity curl of Antoine’s SS hat in the very spot where the Totenkopf emblem would shine with unambiguous menace. Speaking of which, me digressing again (no wonder my students in the European Far North where I taught the Russian language, gave me the nickname ‘digressor’), I am quite in awe with the collectors of Nazi symbolics: uniforms, war decorations, documents, domestic objects. Why anyone wishes to find, pay, and keep all this morbidity, and in secret mostly? I can see how an otherwise decent person caresses this stuff when alone, daring not to show it to strangers. An acquaintance in Russia I am thinking defined his gruesome interest in ‘all that’ in terms of ‘aesthetics.’ ‘The aesthetics of death,’ I added then. He did not accept. ‘The aesthetics of history,’ he said. ‘Too general,’ I said, and we left it at that, but I still wonder looking at all the books translated and written on the subject in so very many languages occupying (yes, a very proper word for the occasion) two whole shelves at my late father’s dacha (he too was bewitched). I keep the books, but I don’t want to see the titles, and so I turn these books around in such a way as have them face the walls when I am there. In this way I have collection blend into a single discourse, a discourse that still begs the question.
09.09.2018. My partner, who is German, got somewhat perturbed by me starting the Notes with a story about a Nazi. ‘Why do you want to write on this topic?,’ she asked. ‘Why indeed?’ Well, the reasons are several. On the one hand, my protagonist is a generic type of person: quiet, patient, differential, his lookalike exists in every culture, he speaks dozens of different languages and is still recognizable as Antoine. His demeanor – self-assured but unimposing – attracts people, especially people like myself, people who have little patience and run ahead of the train on most personal and formal occasions, quite an unattractive sight, I keep on reminding myself. As a German, I would have been a neurotic German, a German, who wanders looking hunted down, painfully sensitive, unable to deal, faltering under fire. The type is much more pervasive, but much less interesting (I too am much less interesting to myself, but that is also a property of being unable to assume an outside perspective on oneself past the first order of separation – I cannot experience my experience of myself, only that of the Other is available for any in-depth scrutiny, like it always takes me by surprise to be hearing my own voice in a recording).
On the other hand, Antoine is decidedly a cultural subject. He is friendly and open as many young German men I used to know during my almost eight years of living in that country. He is thoughtful and efficient. He does not complain. He stands his ground, but he is not forceful. And not violent. And this is the reason he was noticed by Hitler and was chosen to serve him. Antoine is a person one can rely on. Not in terms of loyalty – no public figure should expect loyalty – but on an everyday level. He would not judge and even his vanity is of a subdued kind. ‘Is he earnest then?,’ my partner asked. ‘I think so.’ I conjure up his image. I am surprised to see that, again, Antoine is very handsome, like Falco is handsome, all these cheek dimples, sleek long hair (I am thinking the younger Falco before drugs and alcohol got under his skin, making him pear-shaped and bedraggled – still a pity, a PITY!) and long seeking fingers of a striptease dancer (Oops, a ‘no’ here: Antoine is sleek, but not seedy; he is a stage presence all right, but only as a second – that is why Hitler chose him from the line of his SS piers; it especially appealed to the Führer that Antoine was not eager to be chosen. Does it mean that he did not care? I don’t know. The story has just begun. He isn’t vain, right. Let’s just wait and see). ‘Is he ambitious?’ ‘No. I don’t think so.’ My favorite Hannah Arendt’s work is ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.’ Like his master, Antoine was banal but he was not evil. He was just there, the right man at the wrong turn of his country’s history. Consider this: He discharged his gun at a human being only once, and that human being was Hitler.
I have come to realize that dating my entries is redundant because I edit what has already been written all the time (‘Revisator!’) building on the earlier bits by way of footnoting them internally, like in the continuous act of inserting loose change in the premade slot in order to give the whole thing more weight which does not mean more substance. Gambling is never about winning. Sex is never about making children. Revising is a habit, a gesture. Do you think that laws of physics apply to writing?
It has been a long time, writing here: moving between countries helps collect impressions, no doubt, but they are as fleeting as the distances overcame, left behind, forgotten. It is a bit ironic, for most of all my notes belong to small genre; they are not much different than a piece of paper you have just put yourself into by scribbling a few ineligible words. Subsequently, I have tons of constantly disappearing ‘wrotes,’ as I wish to call them. Somewhat derogatory, for organizing my texts happens only on the macro level, they are folk fictions. I cannot go deeper: the foreign language stops me. I should be writing in Russian as well. At home, with my partner and my children, we speak English. Each child knows 5-6 Russian words used perfunctorily in their ‘Okay, I will say something’ manner when I put them on the phone with my mother, who they call ‘babushka’, stressing the middle syllable, and that is all my native tongue means to them. When heard some stranger speak Russian, they say – Hungarian. I don’t mind the association – often, when someone eager for communication here in England would ask me where I am from, I used to say – Hungarian to avoid unnecessary complications, trying to make it easy for myself and for my native interlocutors, but now when England has a fair bit of Hungarians, I decided to switch for a more complex and perhaps confusing identity: Kyrgyz. What? What? Where is it? Is it a language even? Sounds like something that belongs to carpentry: After you are done with Kyrgyz, you can do the first paint of the wall.
As it always happens to digressors, they tend to digress in multiple directions. For example, I would like to present a haiku, the first one I have written since 1994. Moreover, and perhaps a bigger digression deals with the language. The analytic order of the English language makes it easier to write a haiku, but the synthetic Russian cannot be capped when thinking or translating it: the free word order spells out semantic flexibility as well. This is to say, the English translation of haiku has less ability to express its nuances. Without further ado: Oops, – WordPress does not seem to let its publications to appear in other languages.
Then: The sun of March is bright, and the road is mud. The little girl and the old woman, holding hands, venturing out into the unknown. Will they make it?
Sounds like it has no heart, this haiku, in English,. Well, I should try better next time. This little piece comes from Vasiljev’s painting ‘On the Road.’ It reminds me me of my mother who is a lonely soul and who would like to take the road as an opportunity to become the little girl, a favorite grand-daughter for a big family. Now, she is more like the mother of Grendel from John Gardner’s novel. She is trying hard to DO something, anything, for her children, but all she needs to do is to try and UNDERSTAND them in all their difference. Alas!
Speaking of children, I have three of them. The middle one looks just like myself. But I understand him the least. He is an astoundingly handsome boy (here: not necessarily like me), but, like myself, he is strangely detached, a ‘thing of his own,’ as my former friend said about me when I was in my twenties. He is an enigma, reminding of Fowls and his ‘Enigma,’ a story about a strange disappearance of a well-to-do businessman, who, already in his fifties, didn’t come home one day. Gone for good in a flash. I read the story thirty years ago, but it still resonates with me.
When one is living through their fifties, he often has to face one or another existential crisis, which reminds me the character of Otto-the-postman from Tarkovsky’s ‘Nostalgia’ speaks about waiting for something to happen in the opening scene. Waiting for something. When it doesn’t come, this something, this event, warrants a disappearance, and myself, one of many of that age, who cannot help but wait for an event that would justify their entire life, their living, to be more exact, when tired of waiting, go some place. I yearn to know about this place. I imagine it to be deeply covered in snow, a remote place. I see a dog, a big German shephard, an old Russian hut in need of much repair, but most of all, it has to be so remote, so lonely, that that the very idea of loneliness would dissipate at the moment of the inability to stand up and proceed.
There is no duty, no hardship, even love in this place. It is entirely white, empty of human presence, and even a dog is more of a decoration.
When you old, and at 55 I feel old, decorations, more precisely things, become burdensome as if all you want is an colorless expanse that will eventually devour you, making you one with them. The question that leads to this imaginary place is the fundamental one: Why should or rather ought to continue living? Or, more technically, how can one turn into snow, wind, earth? How can one become an elemental?
This digression does not mean that I forgot about my character and his short but dutiful life. After all, it is him, at not so advanced age, set fire on the most hated man on earth. But these notes will not reveal the reasons – there are none – for that deed. He too disappeared like a dark angle whose only purpose was to eliminate a monster. In the meantime, he polishing his beautiful long boots, ready to assume his duty as Hitler’s adjutant, just appointed in the lowest rank, whistling, as was his habit, Polka, and looking forward to appear in all his orderly immpecable self. As I wrote before, he had no fear, no morals of the usual kind. A blank slate, one could see him already gone, as he will be very soon.
When I tam thinking of Antoine, and I am doing it fairly often, I wonder if he traveled a lot, or even some. I am sure he was confined to Germany, to Berlin throughout most of his life. I also think he was not particularly unhappy about it, given how he was in the world. Myself, I consider myself a seasoned traveler, but I am still excited at the prospect of taking a journey. Journey is movement and movement makes me think. Shukshin’s story ‘Nedoteupa’ comes to mind. I always take a book with me, but I rarely engross myself in reading when I travel: the print serves as a distraction a way to channel my thoughts which tend to run amok against the perceptual overload of smells, sights, and people. Flight 2583 London Heathrow to Moscow Sheremetyevo. I have flown to Moscow hundreds of times from the United States and Europe. I am travelling from Brighton, a ‘relaxed’ place, a place, where people wear shorts and sandals to departmental meetings, and where everyone, who is not gay, looks like gay, and gays sport their looks to the extreme. The weather (Oh, no, I am talking about the weather again, but how can one not talk about the weather if it is so very dismal that you either bitch about it all the time, a legitimate topic to complain about is a country, where people think it is bad taste to complain to begin with, or pretend that it is not there: wearing nothing but a T-short is an expected sight at all times, – rain, storm, and slit, tornado and Tsunamis included) is a mix of the sun and strong cold wind coming from the English Channel. I arrive early and have to stand for a while at the bus stop, slowly freezing my extremities. The stop consists of a single pole with a picture a bus and a few glass panels thrown together in a manner which does not really protect travellers from the elements but creates an impression of doing so. A thoughtfully designed – so as to dissuade the homeless – narrow, very narrow and uncomfortable to sit on bench is sticking out in the middle. They call it Pull Valley Coach Station, but there is no food stand or coffee machine or any of the usual amenities that a station would presuppose. An elderly English couple is standing next to me, apparently freezing as well, trying to smile, mumbling about their discomfort through their bad teeth. Their complaints are barely audible; they are not meant for others (unless they are already in a conversation – then, it is legit). The bus to Heathrow is already there. It is sitting at the station saying Out of Service. The bus driver is inside. We all, about ten of twelve of us, know it, but patience is a virtue in the UK. We are waiting. Five minutes before the departure time, I move back and start pacing. As a foreigner, I am allowed not to be patient. At some point I line up with a short black man who sees my impatience and start talking to me. He speaks with a strong Nigerian accent, – another foreigner. I tone down my artificial English and start speaking with a generic American accent. He gladly responds. In a fast and irritated voice he tells me about him having to stand where he is standing, in ‘the dumm carner,’ while the bus-driver is sitting comfortably in the bus and so on and so forth. I give him the usual, trying not to cross the invisible boundary of criticizing the native, using the generic ‘these people,’ ‘the guy’, etc. ‘These people burn me up,’ I say. From a stock of set responses, this one works very well, giving the other person an opportunity to blast ‘these people’ out of their comfort zone. I purse my lips the Obama style and nod and nod and nod. We are revelling in our ‘alien’ togetherness. We are ranting at will, happily ignoring the rules of appropriateness, forgetting about ‘good manners’ and stock behavioural patterns in the country which used to set the highest standards of politeness and good will for all. We are having a ball, the Nigerian, who is by now speaking so fast that I can barely understand him and myself, the Russian, who has happily given up on pretending that he participates by taking his turn. It is enough for me to attend to him, and, in this way, to share the comradership of bitching, that commonness that only the natural born outsiders know. A fat girl and a nerd boy, back in school. Remember? Finally, on the dot of the departure time, the driver walks out. He smiles and tells us in a pretend apology that he arrived late (too much traffic) and had only 20 minutes to rest instead of 45 minutes that he is entitled to take, but he is ready to go and will not compromise the schedule. He says all that as he is taking our luggage, checking our tickets, chatting about Swansea, greeting the familiars. The Nigerian guy and myself are standing aside when we hear all that, and as we do, a transformation occurs in both of us. Our embarrassment is such that it immediately divides us. We are no longer looking at each other and instead of playing out a distinct possibility of sitting together, we go our separate ways: he rushes into the bus and I linger to let him settle. Then I walk in, passing by him without saying a word. Every alien for himself, I am thinking. Once on the bus, I buckle up to show my good will to driver and remain buckled for the two hour plus trip, feeling like I am making amends for my hasty judgement of a nice English man.
A bad taste still in my mouth, I walk inside the airport only to feel that my irritation thermometer begins to climb. The English may not be xenophobic, but they are decidedly not interested in a cultural other. They go on their five week-long vacations a year to have the sun and the sea and almost never a culture, a museum, a trip to the opera. Food (being so very palate numbed after a life-long diet of fish and chips and god knows what other deep fried shit that they eat, the English care less about food than any other nation I personally know – the Russians, the Belgians, the French, the Italians, the Americans, and the whole East European schmogarsboard), but mostly pubs where they guzzle pints of bear on regular days and weekends alike, arranging their entire life and work schedules around a pint. Occasionally, they ask you about your accent, but they are not taking the info you give them anywhere. Unlike the Americans (I know, I know, – I am dangerously stereotypical, but I do believe and I did argue for cultural stereotypes to be inalienable from one’s everyday existence), the English do not pick up on what you give them, not even with ‘I was in Russia in 1971,’ or ‘What do you think about Putin?’ as would be an expected response from an American. They do not pretend to try and affiliate with you. ‘Oh, Russian. That’s all right’ is the most common response I have heard in my five years of living in that country. ‘Of course it is all right,’ I want to say, but say nothing. Silence is the foreigner’s best friend. Yet, I am not irritated by the English. I am irritated by the sheer diversity without diversity that I see. The English are just the background
On the plane, which is surprisingly empty (long live the Russian-English collapse of mutual good will!), I start looking forward to my entitlement, my miniature dinner. ‘What is it going to be?,’ I am musing to myself. ‘Lamb? Chicken? Fish?’ Whatever it is, I know I deserved it. After I washed down my entire take-in (a hard-boiled egg, half of banana and a free apple from a posh restaurant I took my family for my oldest son’s 12 year birthday) at the Indian-run Nero) before going through the gate, I am ready, baby ,for my tiny white bun and a slice of Russian black bread with cheese and butter and a mystery entre. The joys of miniaturism…(oh, well, later about that and ‘no’, it is not going to something straight from The Fight Club). So, I am thinking about my meal, I do have a distinct difficulty concentrating. Right behind me, two clever Moscow ‘boys’ (for my age; in fact they are well in their twenties) are conducting that very familiar kind of banter that would often make me feel lost in college. I am neither fast nor clever. I tend to fall hopelessly behind. That is why I do not do banter, I say to myself. I write banter. It is not what they say to each other however, but how they do it that is getting to me, making my skin crawl in irritation.
I also wonder, to move to a different subject matter concerning Antoine, if my character was a quiet child. Yes, in fact, he was. Not just quiet but introspective, focusing on small things, on the things at hand. It is for that reason that he did not have many friends and none imaginary ones. He was entirely self-sufficient in his observing mode: neither good nor bad but precisely self-sufficient as in being independent from others. This does not mean however that he was independent from everything. As I have said, he was dependent on his environment to an extent that made him appear detached as he was but only from his socium. I was also detached as a child and also was attached to my environment, but, unlike Antoine, I loved my little toys, especially Playmobil figurines, which came into my life just at the right time. These figurines were not imaginary but their lives were that. Miniature worlds became me. Even when I walked, I walked with my head down, looking the ground, seeking out tiny little things that I would collect and use for my worlds. None of this was happening to my sons who, if anything, are very outword-bound and totally uninterested in anything miniature, including collections.
Telephone for Speaking with God
There is a certain awe one experiences when he sees a red phone on the table of a head of state. A direct line to another head of state, which I presume not any state but the one whose head has the red button and a bunch of nuclear arms in his possession. What can possibly surpass the power of this kind of communication. Well, my son Luka has recently found himself a relic. Of course, nobody could expect a relic to be a pice of wood of approximately size of a small brick: 10x3x4 cm. It was peculiar: it looked like a piece of an old ship that got shipwrecked centuries ago: well-polished by the elements, it was both smooth and porous. Its original purpose was unknown. Against our rule – no stones, sticks, seagull feathers–to be brought in the house, we felt differently about this object. It appeared to be harmless and hygienwise—passable, so it was all right for Luka to bring it home. It was a mysterious object nonetheless, and we wondered about its use, talked about it; yet, we quickly forgot about it until one day, a week or so later, we caught Luka upstairs in his big brother’s bedroom talking to someone holding the piece of wood next to his ear, just like a cellphone. It was at this point that we realized that he indeed uses it as a phone, talking, as the title of this note has already given away, to–God. We did not know at first, thinking an imaginary friend, but Luka’s confidence and his continuation of talking despite our presence, made us ask after he was done with the common phone talk closure, as in Okay. Buy buy. Who it was that was on the other end of the phone, Luka, we asked, expecting a response pointing to a Marvel hero or another such character. It was not such a character, however. As soon as we found out, we became flabbergasted. Neither one of us is religious and neither one of us likes to discuss God unless it is for academic purposes. Two things stood out immediately: God is not an imaginary friend, therefore how come? Second, Luka’s confidence and his sense of privacy were of the level we have been unfamiliar with before. Our investigation yielded the following: God was Luka’s personal friend. So, our original suggestion that God cannot be such was simply overthrown. Second, as for the content of Luka’s conversations, Luka simply said that it was his business. Even more flabbergasted, we suggested that perhaps we can improve his phone: I thought that panting buttons and a screen would be god, and maybe a soft plastic antenna could be also good. To this, Luka esponded that the phone must remain as is, throwing us back in another wondering spin, but nothing much happened since then. A year later, Luka still talks to God and the ‘phone’ is still there, resting on his shelf in the little ones’ bedroom.
Why Tarkovsky? Why is it that I am laboring so much over a book that is doomed to be complicated and hardly unique. Perhaps the reason for this is the same reason that made me cry when I watched ‘Mirror’ for the first time at the age of fifty five. My childhood, my family, my life passed before my eyes zeroing in on the last scene: the field, the twilight, the cross, the passing. Now that I am looking back, I remember how I encountered Tarkovsky for the first time in 1980 at a closed viewing of his Stalker in the House of Cinema in Moscow. The film produced a strong and lasting impression on myself, a young adult, who was in a continuous search for new sources of self-betterment. Tarkovsky’s cinema appeared to offer such a source. My preliminary research thirty years ago (confined mostly to Soviet journal Iskusstvo Kino [Cinema Art]) yielded only several publications by Tarkovsky and about him. The latter were largely negative, creating a strong dissonance to my experience. I saw Solaris in 1985, in the early days of ‘perestrojka,’ when many ‘shelved’ films started making it out from film archives into the open. I found Solaris as captivating; moreover, I found it deeply ‘philosophical,’ although then I understood the term in the mundane sense.
A new rubric for these notes. I have abstained from using it, for it is a diaries rubric: I have it in all my little notebooks, some of which were purchased and others – given to me as gifts. I will try and move those proper diary notes in here, with much editing of course. In the meantime, the new rubric is better be called ‘projects.’ There are so many. And this is one thing that differs me from Antoine. He hardly had projects. He was certainly clever and pensive, a good observer in a primitive, that is, more advanced than an intellectual could ever be, way. Yet, he harbored no projects. Hitler felt it and chose him intuitively, as a doer, an actor without a role. Babylon Berlin is a German series whose lead actor (name) is precisely like Antoine. Oh, yeah, the project I need to put down here is a linguistic one. It is inspire by W. Saphire’s rubric on language (more). This one is about the marketing diminution of those names that came to associate not just with a particular product but because of their uniqueness at the time – with a whole of products – Xerox, Hoover, WhatsApp. Now that WhatsApp is rethinking its name, it became clear that none cares the company that begot the name. Moreover, it became less than it ‘should’ be. How come? Well, this is what the project is about. There are also words that sound ‘yeam’ and thus they travel into the other’s tongue. For example, foreignisms ‘komponent’ or ‘platforma.’ Put’ is an endemic Russian word that is also one way of putting it, but the foreignisms somehow make a difference in the vocal or phonetic quality as to stay within a foreign language as a host.
Another rubric. This one deals with the intercultural component of my being. This time the most present foreign culture for me, my immediate xenos, the English (mind you – Antoine, despite all their efforts, his frankophilic parents did not make him international, that is, he remained essentially a German, a local. TA deficit turned proficit: there was some purity about him, some innocence), and so I will now and then throw in my observations of this very alien culture. I would like to begin however with a strange similarity between the Russians and the English (the Anglo-Saxons) – their interest in the existential question. They are essentially, and the Germans join in here, existential cultures. One does not have to go too far to find non-existential ones in contrast. I shall explain.
Thinking of a friend of mine who built her entire life on someone else’s privilege. How can one possibly do that and remain a good human being at the same time?
The British journalism has not changed its key modality (tonality, stylistics), so much laughed at and mimicked by Monty Python, in the last fifty years.
Antoine was enjoying his bath. Hot and fluffy from the French soap the water gave him immense pleasure. it also covered him fully. He felt dressed. He liked to be dressed at all times. A man of pleasure is a man of good measure, repeated Antoine. Who was that man, that philosopher who said that? Khm. Difficult to tell if you had only a secondary school education and even that of a highly reductive kind.
Antoine’s best friend was a woman. This shall not be surprising given that barely perceptible effeminate trait about him. Less surprising was that his friend, Christina, was slightly older and somewhat crude. If she lived in this day and age, she would have been wearing unlaced boots under a long heavy skirt over wide hips. Short legged, flat chested with long thin disheveled brown hair, she looked like a poor fit to Antoine’s smooth and gaunt demeanor, his blue eyes (hers were light hazel). When Antoine’s colleague saw for the first time in a small cafe in Steglitz, he mistook her for a cheap prostitute who came up to their table looking for some action. Worn out shoes, unfresh nylons, and even her smell (strawberry soap) would easily explain his mistake. He was so stunned, that poor chap, when he found out that she was Antoine’s ‘woman friend’ that he forgot to fake embarassment but kept on staring at her in sheer disbelief.
She was out of place in that café as she would be out of place everywhere. Antoine’s friend snickered. Yes, he was one of those ‘staring,’ ‘snickering’ Germans. It was not until Kristina sat down – on the edge of the chair – and started speaking that the friend (Gerhard – for the sake of variety) underwent a complete transformation. One should have seen his gaping mouth and raised eyebrows and something entire new about his attitude: reverence. It was her voice. Molassy, flowing slowly into your ears like honey. Exactly like honey. Antoine pulled a whimsical look. He knew what he was showing. He was proud of his find. He was a collector not of things but of oddities. Kristina stood high up on his rather diverse list. A stoic in his everyday routine, Antoine was a grand collector of people’s character traits. If Kristina’s vice were of opera quality, it would have not produced the same impression as it did now – it mesmerized Gerhard into submission. “A simple mind,” thought Antoine about him. Actually, what he thought was: “An idiot.” His friend did not pass the test of encountering wonder. Poor chap, said Antoine, as he probably said before on similar occasions many times, snap out of it. Kristina stopped speaking as if Antoine’s remark literary turned her off. Gerhard snapped out of it. With a sound – a long laborious outbreath – Oooph. Indeed, – it was hard work listening to Kristina. Attending to her had something physical about it. Like sex. Only Antoine would not know: He made sure there was no hanky-panky with his exhibits. It would be dangerous.
I keep on thinking about wrong things. As in ‘wrong-wrong.’ This kind of thinking-circular, viscous, miniscule-is domesticating my brain. It prevents me from seeing far or deep, keeps me on the surface level, and it is very frustrating to live that kind of life. I am trying to battle it with reading poetry or Dostoyevsky. Oh, man, that curse of every literate Russian–Dostoyevsky! So disturbing, so very addictive. One does not read him, one gets poisoned by him. Nabokov has a beautiful poem dedicated to Feudor Mikhajlovich: “As Christ was walking in the Garden..” But was Dostoyevsky really able to see Beauty in a pile of filth? I cannot sleep if I read The Idiot at bed time. Same with Tsvetayeva. My mind cannot process the complexity of her images in that state. I feel totally screwed.
11.01.2020. One of the effects of losing a loved one, when the loss is entirely unexpected and not justified by age or illness, or other leading circumstances are sand dreams. Dreams still happen, but they are not just interrupted as would be expected. They are given in such low resolution that one can perceive nothing in the foreground, not figures, but only the distant and undefined background, with indistinct shapes moving against this porridge of the horizon. The sandy taste in the mouth contributes to the sensation of being inside the sand pit.
I wonder if writing in English does not defy the purpose of these Notes. It is like telling about what’s important to the wind. Laborious…
12.01.2020. Reading Brodsky. I dislike listening to him read his poems. The singing element in his voice is annoying. I’d rather listen to Frolova sing him. Going through old letters. Some are impossible to throw away. Out of many lives lived by me, no one life can claim some of their authors. They transcend all these lives. Brodsky was wrong when he said/wrote that in order to forget a life, one has to live through another. I don’t remember myself at 30 any longer. I recognize myself in the pictures, but I don’t remember how I was. A swash-buckler? Really? That guy? Brodsky wrote about aging at 32. I properly felt it at 50. However, he died at 55. Does it mean I will live to 70? Funny it is – the mathematics of age.
13.01.2020. It is Old New Year in Russia. How very depressing, this combination – ‘old new year’, certainly worse then another one. The one that is gone was the hardest…I just discovered (when re-reading old letters) that I had friends who were my friends only so that they would watch me fall. Standing there while I was balancing my way out of a fall, watching for it to happen. What would they have done if I really fell? I did not live to find out. At some point all of them drifted away – to watch someone else, no doubt.
Watched pretty boy Aussi’s Neil Robertson lose to Stephen McGuire in snooker at the this year’s Masters. So sad. I rarely go for a pretty boy in competition. I like the underdog. As in Smila’s Sense of Snow: I celebrate the fat girl. Here, too. At first. But Neil was vulnerable. McGuire was fat and bold and altogether not friendly-looking. But what a character! Neil was a bit cocky tho. He was leading 5 to 1 and needed the last one to win, but then one awkward ball and the match went to hell. I don’t watch sports. I watch snooker. Something about the activity of rolling balls on a table. And the human element of course. Got hooked up when alone in Belgium. Also Masters. And UK Championship. So dramatic and so .. stupid, in a way. Like this style of writing notes – indulgent and ..stupid. Rolling, rolling, rolling balls.
23.01.2020. When my niece died, I thought that if the world would stop now it would be because of her. Imagine a novel written about a huge disaster, a world crisis, an apocalypse, all that because of one person who had to part the world that way, with billions of other lives.
16.01.2020. These notes are turning into a cease pool for unprocessed emotions. You dump – you feel better. Automatically. They are also becoming more and more like diary entries. Not that I am forgetting about Antoine. He is very much on my mind. Especially recently. Actually, with all this reading of literature that I do these days I cannot help but wonder about the presence of literature in the everyday. For example. The recent death of a loved one has spawned all sorts of estrangements. I have already mentioned dreams. In general, it is about an new reality. Not surreal, as in the underlining of reality, but a new reality that a trauma brings about. The everyday is no longer there to provide a cushion. So, you have visions and other phenomena caused by the perceptual deficit. But then literature kicks in so strongly and unexpectedly. And there is plenty venue: death, formalities of it, funeral, wake, second wake. New people. The people who know how to grieve and the people who don’t. Exposed people and characters. Yourself, if you care to do self-analysis on the spot, or in situ as anal-retentive conversation analysts love to call it. So, literature. Poetry starts coming to mind. From the recesses of memory you get visitations by bits and pieces of poetry learnt ages ago. Old folks have it anyway, but here it it much more vivid. Then comes prose. The Russian literature fits this mode very well. It is character literature. So, Tolstoy, Chekhov and Dostoyevsky. The Triad of Big Psychologists. A Russian person is stuck between them, and the choices are both vastly fulfilling and limiting.
15.04.2020. After I have read one of Franzen’s biographical essays (on Peanuts), I got excited and ordered a Peanuts desk calendar only to find out that if one is to examine Schulz’s humour closely, he could quickly see that his is a lack of humour, confirming that essentially children are not funny. They are before comism and before morality. However, what can be made funny is their relationality is grotesque and their use of the adult language in children’s situation is funny. My children did not like Peanuts: boring.
16.04.2020. I must say, Corona does affect writing. In the situation when future is suspended in so many ways, time slows down to a halt, and space shrinks to a room or apartment, writing suffers from a lack of purpose and inspiration. Even academic writing boils down to inserting quotes. The Corona malaise colours all other writing activities in the shades of the mud. Dreams are coloured in equally somber tones. They are also very inwardly set: labyrinths, abandoned hotels, repetitive action, faceless characters. A deep sigh of relief signifies the end of Corona dreams in the morning.
20.04.2020. Tarkovsky would not have been able to make a film based on Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita (he wished). The director had a remarkable lack of irony. He was mythopoetic through and through.
19.04.2020. Atologist, who studies characters, and ethnologist, who studies peoples, justify examination of stereotypes about national character if morality is not evoked in conclusion. For example, the tiptoeing of the English before attributing blame to its own. doing things on their own terms sometimes overrides the politeness imperative. The hands-off approach to child rearing is often linked to politeness as a desirable trait to learn. Here, – for the sake of the parents.
21.04.2020. Playmobil has just launched Playmobil face masks (it proudly announced – Not a Toy!). 1£ from the sale of each mask goes to emergency services (Red Cross). They look cute. Mask a fashion statement and mass product. No heroes, one face.
24.04.2020. Corona is an event which I have not known before. A different kind of plague. has not been imagined. Not by sci-fi writers. Not in Outbreak, 12 Monkeys, the X-Files. It is an unfathomable event. It can be interpreted only by our reactions to it, which are inevitably self-contradictory. A unity (nation, city, family, relationship) is juxtaposed to a disunity (self- and other-isolation), proximity versus distance. Anecdotally – the Vietnamese suggest to fight Corona by using the blood of black cats. Logically correct – Corona comes from bats. A cat catches mice (bats). The cat is the destroyer of bats; therefore, a part of it should function as a token, a pharmakon. The semiotics of Corona.
29.04.2020. The amount of inspirational, mediational, motivational blog-blah-logy about Corona is astounding. Why does one feel the need to inspire the other during hard times? Corona is a problem. It is not a cause for grieving en ensemble. It needs to be solved. No wonder one leader of one country refused to let more whaling nurses during video conferences to pontificate on their suffering, which is so common that I cannot help but wonder about another need: to mythologize those ‘in the frontlines’ (curious term – essential worker). A person who does their job, who is professionally obligated, and as is the case with medical workers, obligated by oath (like the military), does not have to be admired just for doing their job. And all that amidst recommendations by another leader of another country to drink or inject dysinfectant. In the meantime, the third leader watches Home Alone during his convalescence and, as it is common for the country, eats chips with tea.
30.04.2020. In Azerbajdzhan they closed fitting rooms but not shops. Speakign of half-measures (another pandemia term).
01.05.2020. In English schools, distant learning offers meditational classes, replacing intercorporeal sociality with inner corporeal retreat. Only 70 per cent of students do distant learning as in sending schools homework. A cool world of distant learning it was described by a Russian mom is a severe misconception from the pedagogical standpoint. As much as blogging is not literature, online learning is not education. Internet pornography is not sex. A part of it, but never it. Apocalyptic scenarios of a more than severe lockdown kind may teach us that. No Internet – no distant learning. Do you really want you child’s education be dependent of the mode this education is given?
02.05.2020. An eminent virosologist from Germany found out that children eject as much capillary liquid as adults, yet they do not infect others as much. Well, a phenomenologist who knows much about corporeality would immediately note – children are small. Their height does not allow them to spread at the infectionable height. Actually, a correction is in order (07.05.2020). This very virologist was highly critiqued for the blind spots in his study, to which, he rightfully responded, I admit, that Media reported on his inconclusive findings as conclusive, – something that Media seems to do more than ever in the time of pandemic uncertainty and lack of precedent.
03.05.2020. Performing the everyday in an highly attentive manner is a way of normalizing it toward a new ordinary.
06.05.2020. In the context of Corona, one sees many lives as meaningless, many people as selfish, many communities, nations as sham-ful. Nothing good will ever come out of these revelations.
08.05.2020. A friend of mine is heavily engaged in esoterics and pre-philosophical mysticism, especially on the issue of reincarnation and life after death. i am sympathetic, but with a caveat. I have a sense (experienceable) that we are already living other lives, as in others, as in parallel lives, but not as doubles, although those are also possible, but as in fragments, parts, angles, features, sides, detail, etc. It is somehow soothening to know that there is community or generation of you.
09.05.2020. Adjacently – to the above – I feel surrounded by the same kind of person who likes me and who dislikes me. Different countries, different ages, different contexts, but the type is the same. Now, with parallel lives of your own, it would make sense to assuem there are also parallel contexts, would it not?
10.05.2020. In writing the most important for me is not lexics but syntax.
11.05.2020. Corona is not a tragic event. It has an entirely different sense about it. It has created a genre which knows no precedent. If one wants to enact the event in its own genre, one will be lost. One can get to it somewhat by analyzing the emotional response it evokes. For myself, this response is largely disappointment: in myself, my people, my country, the world I live in, mass media, food, friends, relations, communication. This kind of disappointment is beyond complaint. It is not a kin of depression either. It is just there as a beaten up flag hanging limp from a bent rusty pole in front of what used to be a castle, a fortress, a home. We have not won yet, but we have already been beaten.
13.05.2020. Been watching The Walking Dead a lot. On Amazon Prime. It is a very disturbing series, but I am drawn to it: must be bad taste. On a different level: the set-up f the series allows for an immense variety of dramatic action. I very much commend the script-writing team and the director. Still – my dreams after an evening episode are guaranteed to be horrifying. I had these dreams before but never with zombies. The zombies are actually less scary than the characters like the Governor. Good acting too.
16.05.2020. My sister’s adopted daughter Vasilisa got a real play house (sleeps two) for a birthday gift (she turned 7). The house came preassembled and required a crane for it to be put over the fence. Vasilisa was disappointed. She wanted a pony. When I was 7 I received 3 matchbox cars and a set of plastic toy Indians. I was delirious from happiness. I have always been into miniature things.
17.05.2020. I have realized what my book on Tarkovsky is missing the most. My Tarkovsky is two-dimensional. I am yet to flesh him out. My bio about him is as bland as okroshka. All that kvas.
18.05.2020. The setup for The Walking Dead (WD) allows the director to introduce new characters pretty much every season, while keeping the core group only marginally altered. Bad actors can be killed off and new actors can be tried on the site. With all this, the set can remain unchanged in principle and therefore perfected: abandoned, semi-destroyed, desolate. The same can be said about zombies. Their makeup is getting better and better with every season. There is also some constancy introduced, some rules as to how they move, what they eat, how they bite. Killing a zombie becomes as much of a televisual martial art as karate used to be. I am very impressed with the cinematic potential of the series. On a more intelligent note, it is painful to watch WD already because the Corona crisis has the traces of what could have come in a real apocalyptic event in terms of the human behavior basics. As in being selfish versus altruistic, as in waking up the seven deadly sins and let them rule.
19.05.2020. Strangely, and since everything is strange and outwordly these days, I began to think about the mental health of pets, that is, those happy pets that are used to be alone at home, waiting at the door or on the couch, pining after their absent masters, the pets with an established routine, that is, well-adjusted pets. So comes the lockdown and turns the balanced worlds of these good obedient creatures upside down, making them want attention where they did not have any, making them want to be taken care of immediately and all the time, becoming spoiled in the course of a week. And then, if such heightened attention got bestowed on them lose it all two months later, and, with it, their sanity. So sad. A good day for pet therapists tho. Just like a good day for human therapists. The latter already have their hands full no doubt with all the on-lining whining a trained mind can stomach.
20.05.2020. My son Nik is arbitrarily competitive. In a competition he tends to move away, not toward. He is a congenial character: has much of his father in him. Makes it both easy to see but difficult to interpret and impossible to predict.
21.05.2020. Classification of sexuality depending on the ‘relational’ body.
22.05.2020. Small genre project should include conversational genres: stories (scary stories), set responses, other devices. Translatability of certain personalities: ‘I am not able to gauge him.’ The cats (Lulu and Myshkin) are not translatable but can be easily laughed at. Quid pro quo in myths and fairy-tales.
25.05.2020. A new historical consciousness is being born out of having whole nations locked down. On the one hand, this consciousness should enhance the sense of national belonging. On the other hand, it unites us all in the face of the common – for the world crisis. A new cosmopolitan is being born. This – what I have just said – is not at all interesting.
26.05.2020. More interesting are observations of the English who are emerging quite weary of the stereotypical attitude of SCACO as it has been applied to comply and apply it not to comply. However in order to justify the transition they have to pretend that the pandemic is no longer. The current government understands it – what good would a politician be if he didn’t? – and plays along: lifting quarantine in a gradual, or not so gradual, fashion.
27.05.2020. Antoine has to wait. Should not be hard: he is currently in training. His teacher, title-rank-title Herr Max (solid name, people like it, as it connotes fundamentality) Krowitz (not so good, but passable for the pure blood line minded agency in Berlin) is good at what he does. And what he does is to turn a superiority attitude into skill.
28.05.2020. When I asked my youngest child why it is in his mind that a wolf would not care about a squirrel, he said it would be “unreasonable” to do so.
29.05.2020. Communications between Snoopy and the little yellow bird are enveloped in frustration. Their interactions make for the worst humour in the series. Humour cannot be pushed – pardon the pun – here goes the little yellow bird. Writing good instructions is quite an art. I just saved one for assembly and one for preparing food (duck). Not just sequence but emphasis and allowables are essential. The colour in fashion these days is ‘tired silver.’ Go figure. My mom keeps on asking: Who could profit from COVID-19? After hearing her question for the 220th time, I volunteered: The same people who profited from AIDS. She got very upset. She wanted to hear names, even if the names of countries, organizations, races.
30.05.2020. My youngest is going through the making of potions stage. His favorite is ‘it makes your teeth yellow’ potion and ‘you smell like fish and cannot get the smell out’ potion. Well, he is barely seven. I should make a desktop calendar. A small genre calendar. That last taxi driver, that Uzbek taxi driver in Moscow, the one whose wife is an invalid – he was administered both potions by a wizard. I wonder what it was that he did. Must be ‘misdirection’… Khi-khi. Tanja has made a nice observation about Corona sides, such as not shaking hands. She said that it feels weird a lot of times to shake a hand with a thick wedding ring. Even holding such a hand, as for example, my mother’s is a shareable experience to me. Corona should have a theme song. And a dance. Better a cheer dance. With those…girls. Khi-khi. How about writing an article on Tarkovsky, nabokov and Shemyakin (this WP editor is good – he recognized all three names and corrected my Shemyakin). No, not because they were all dissidents (immigrants), but because they exercised mythopopetic literality. YOU know what I mean. The Cheshire cat, the Simpsons ‘stray’ cat, and Garfield have much in common: they don’t give a damn, just like Myshkin who even when he gets shoved out of the way, does not seem to mind or change his attitude toward you. Unlike myself, he is truly cool.
01.05.2020. The American literature of the 20th century does not know character. It is all about context. It is close to film because of that. To the American film, I must add. To their own genre. The superhero is the American character par excellance. It tries to be a character, to have a character. Corona awakened the spirit. Hegel. Marx. Derrida.
02.05.2020. Rosali which was celebrated by the Romans between May and July in commemoration of the dead was a proper season in a country which does not know a hard season turnover.
03.06.2020. “Why are you saying this?” “I am expressing a doubt.” This is a good example of going meta on a common question.
04.06.2020. When I die I would like to become a bench in a park. One of those name tagged ones. Shall make arrangements. What park shall it be?
05.06.2020. A foreigner has the unbridled desire of belonging. Earning it is a job specific to immigrants and new settlers. Sometimes I wish to be in Africa. Not to visit, but to be there, as in waking up in Africa all of a sudden. Another wish is to acquire a specialized, highly specialized knowledge of making something. Like a toy. Like a playmobil toy. Materials, processes, marketing. Quite boring perhaps in the long run. Just as Africa.
07.06.2020. An atick view of the world. A basement view of the world. In The Walking Dead and The Game of Thrones the actors work on different quality planes. A good director notices it and eliminates the bad ones. Yet, he or she will keep some bad ones for a good measure. I caught my middle son in front of the mirror looking at himself and making faces. When I asked what it was that he was doing, he said, “I practice looking at people.” I liked it. When I was a child I would stand in front of the mirror practicing being looked at. In that he was an improvement to myself. Vanity made practical. Snoopy is getting really annoying as a character. I need to fire him. He does not perform on the same quality plane as Charlie Brown.
13.06.2020. Cummings, Yefremov, Bean, – these examples of social deviance…Khm, not that, not quite. Why do I follow up on these f..ups? Is my own smallness that is at stake here? Damn, it is hard to express myself this Sunday morning. A lazy Sunday. Calling for a pancake breakfast and Sunday Boston Globe with Mother Goose and Grimm snippets. A bowl of cereal and Internet rubbish instead. Franzen in his The DZ establishes a certain kind of nostalgia.
14.06.2020. At the risk of quoting a really bad film – The new Pink Panther with Steve Martin – I keep on remembering ‘not every death is a tragedy.’ Well educated boys and girls from posh unis who migrate to California to make their little fortunes as ghostwriters and scripters (as both D.F. Wallace and J. Franzen described it) read enough good literature to produce such one-liners. The Game of Thrones has a plethora of those, confirming that high art does trickle down to the masses. Gingle is a small genre art. And so is blog and review.
15.06.2020. One thing that can disappear during the pandemia is a way of attending to things, as in ‘hands-on.’ Social distancing is a new way of dealing with things. Its arrival killed off the ‘hands-on.’ Lego miniature arts set can go in the EofSG. The American is a ‘bastard’ culture. If one is to believe that God is implicated in the appearance of COVID, there should be an expectation that worse is coming, for that is how it works with apocalypse, isn’t it? First, a taste, then the actual disaster. The numbers never tell anything. One cannot judge by them, but aren’t they scary to look at?
16.06.2020. My older son ‘forgot’ how to deal/communicate with a paper book. He lost the sensation of reading a paper book. Book has become a ‘strange’ medium to him. He does not even know how to hold it well. Bizarre.
17.06.2020. My youngest son Luka was at the beach during the low tide. He and his brother went far into the ocean. It was too shallow for them to swim. When they came back Luka said: It was good that they made the ocean go away. I don’t know how I could have done social distancing otherwise.
19.2020. The BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement angers me by its downgrading a worthy cause to the absurd. Monuments? Chess? Queen’s highest order? Unilever’s packaging – ‘white’ and ‘light’ removed, the remastered ‘Gone with the Wind’. The revision of history is the purview of weak minds.
20.20.20. Just the combination…
24.06.20. On this day that marks 75 years since the victory of the USSR over fascism, when watching the parade the Germans called pompous (of course they would), I remembered the footage that made me cry as a child. Not the original victory parade of 1945, which was also tremendously touching, but the column of the German soldiers escorted through Moscow in 1943 after the surrender in Stalingrad. For me that has always been the actual victory parade. The new uniforms are horrible.
26.06.20. Luka plays playmobil in the mode of monological parallelism. He plays next to you but aside from you making a storyline which does not include you, his counterpart, interactively, only passively, as a spectator.
27.06.2020. Shame on the producers of the Simpsons who will redo the voices of the black characters which are not being dubbed by black actors.
29.06.20. Sergey Chilikov, age 67, died today. He was a photographer who specialized in showing tits of the young girls in Oshkar-Ola with the post-Soviet slums serving as the background. He was known as a provocateur. In fact, he was simply a bad photographer who benefited, one of many artists, on both the Soviet deficit of eroticism and hence a poor knowledge of what it actually implied and the collapse of morality. He wanted to be romantic but turned out to be sleazy and tasteless. Rest in peace, Sereuzha..
07.07.2020. The most fundamental difference between the Germans and the English as it has transpired during this pandemia is that while the Germans were actively discussing the materials and design of the masks for the doctors and common folk, the English simply did not care to obtain or wear them. Their problem solving is global, not local. They are used to, as an island nation, to manage with locally limited resources; hence the 500 years of exploiting the outside. The English mentality is centrifugal, as opposed to the German one, which is centripetal. The Russian falls in-between. It is a not very well functioning synthesis.
09.07.2020. The autocratic power in Russia has a distinct tinge of the prison culture that dates back to the 17th century. On the throne sits avtoritet. During the best of times, he is benevolent. Consider Okudzhava’s Len’ka Koroleuv. During the worst times, he is sadistic and unconcerned. The protests in Khabarovsk in support of Furgal are clearly directed at the image of the benevolent thief-in-law. Sad. Very sad.
10.07.2020. I love this type of news that are preceded by the headline like ‘A Dietologist Suggests, or Tells,’ where suggests stands for the mundane and banal opposite of the scientific notion of proof. Not proved, but told. Cinologists have the same a-scientific approach. A reevaluation of science via profession yields results.
11.07.2020. The English do not need to try hard to do social distancing. They are already sufficiently socially distanced. Not so the French, and even less so the Italians, as it has turned out. The huggle-friendly Americans suffer as well. However, in itself, social distancing has a level of sophistication with the English that is unreachable to other peoples. To be distanced has tremendous skills and centuries of cultural selection.
12.07.2020. Luka: “Coronavirus is the word that has all the swear words put together!”
14.07.2020. The more Russian news I read the more I remember Brodsky’s Travelling in Asia: “Don’t respond to Hey, man…”
20.07.2020. Too hot to write. I don’t how Marques ever did it. Or Delibes. Sweltering hot. Now that it has cooled down, I tried to find appropriate art for the pandemic. I remembered Estes’s Cafe Express (1975) from the Art Institute in Chicago. One of his people-less paintings. Hyper-realism – very good for Corona. As a thing one hides behind.
29.07.2020. The news these days are making me so sick, I cannot write or think without wanting to throw up. It feels like we are sliding into the Middle Ages: witch hunts, racial and religious fanatics, financial crooks, respectable idiots, new weapons made and used, massive coverups. How selfish and idiotic can one be to come out to protest against a disease claiming that summer is for sex so screw the lockdown just days after that one’s grandma died from corona. I am disgusted and appalled. The division between rational responsibility and irrational responsibility is the widest ever. I feel old, bedraggled and useless. The pandemia is a harrowing test of one’s sanity.
01.08.2020. Magic realism is the call of the day. In demand. Visiting places. A hobby? What about the beach. Fantasy land. Being there always makes me wish to be younger. Some other things as well.
02.08.2020. A. Bitov has not been translated much, if at all. Still worth reading. For style. Once I vowed to develop a system of marking books. You know. Like Lenin’s Nota Bene! NB! Astersisks, underlines, vertical notes, on top of the font notes. Notes are a reaction. They are therapeutic. Tarkovsky’s Diary is a self-therapy. Was it recommended to him? Most things were recommended to him. Yusov wrote that he was very influenceable. How come he became such a unique filmmaker, a visionary? The power of associative thinking.
04.08.2020. A project: dis-estranging a piece of literature to pure plot. Borges could be good to work with. Another project, which is a whiff of the past – making bookmarks with print-art: colored background, border ornamentals, central figure and an inscription in Latin. A punched hole and a piece of a woolen string.
05.08.2020. I an sold to the proposition that my mother, as a mother, did not always mean well to me.
08.08.2020. Putin’s personal – Peter the Great’s – ambitions will be his downfall. He failed to use an opportunity to act as a moral leader with the situation in Belarus’, continuing to forward his agenda for the restoration of Russia as a super-power in Eurasia. Schade… He has begun to think of himself in terms of his destiny while using non-magical pragmatic thinking to have it fulfilled. He will not last long in this kind of jam. On top, being a gray cardinal Putin is too cautious, too much into chess as a politician. he does not have either scale or panache.
10.08.2020. Evelyn Waugh: Grimes, ‘in the soup.’ Think not Judgement Day but Celebration – Tarkovsky’s Andrey Rubleuv.
11.08.2020. As in the Russian Magical Fairy-Tale, = we are all frogs. Some are before miracle touches them and others – after.
13.08.2020. A communication competence manual should teach us styles as in conversational styles, including non-verbals, such as head tilts and half-smiles. Any good TV series may even teach a style or two.
14.08.2020. There are cycles of healing. For different non-mechanical ailment, there is also a cycle: mental disease, addictions, skin conditions have a specific time frame for healing. No more and no less. More means degradation, less means prolongation.
15.08.2020. Quote: ‘I drink and I know things. This is what I do’ (Tyrian Lannister, Game of Thrones).
17.08.2020. Pina Bausch. She knew that she was dying, but refused to stop. One however would not be able to do so without somehow being in some kind of show, on stage and not be debilitated. A professor refusing to stop and still teaching his students to the end is different from a soldier who, frail and ill, should not continue to serve.
18.08.2020. All strong nations have a propensity to brutality. Brutality is the measuring stick for how far one would be able to go. Prison mentality. Putin learned a lot during his reign. One thing he learnt on the scale of a personae is how to be a tsar.
19.08.2020. Make a list of most memorable corners, roads, turns..
28.08.2020. Am amazing superfluity of the West in the case of Lukashenko. Lukashenko’s absolute disregard of the norms of relating to other people; communicating with them clearly, but most importantly – transparently and accountably.
02.09.2020. A circularity of thinking can be resolved only toponymically: by way relay stations and redirects that branch mental processes out and into some orderly web-like structure that allows for a variety of options: a rail, a grid. As in Where to Travel? and How I an get there? Shall it be fast, or shall I take the scenic route. Landscape is as important for common thinking as it is for dreaming. Too cluttered means – difficult to move. Movement and direction of thought are the crucial operations here. Metaphor endows them a mode of expression – metaphor is not just a figure of speech, but a figure of thought. Ivan’s Childhood can be one such point of destination; another – Lukashenko. What a spectacle the latter is!
11.09.2020. Infantility in past and current relationships. Self, Other, Interns.
13.09.2020. Lukashenko is managing. It is on this plane that the conflict should be positioned for consideration: describe the plane.
14.09.2020. Rebranding Corona beer for the sun rather than the crown.
15.09.2020. A coinage: profiteurka. Youtube is an example of the natural attitude. A foreigner does not make ‘common’ – for the native – spelling erros.
16.09.2020. Sick with PAS – proficit anxiety syndrome. I am the only one in my family who has associative thinking.
17.09.2020. An academic thrives in the shadow. Decorative literature – Borges.
18.09.2020. Project: The Annals of the Russian Province. Herranium. Reznyje nalichniki. Provincialism in literature, other arts. Provincial aesthetics. Different than kitsch.
19.09.2020. Listening to our Bulgarian cleaning lady telling stories in her broken English. Emphasis on ‘because’ and ‘and.’ A general difficulty to finish a story. I remember that with myself. Also the need to give as much context: the foreigner has little clue. Me and my partner have a sweet tooth for the ‘cheesy.’ ABBA.
20.09.2020. Dostoyevsky’s The Demons. Just finished it. Tarkovksy is very much in debt before this text. That is clear. Especially when it comes to his endings. Special Corona police units in a small ‘proud’ country. My father: A Sarcofagus of Knowledge. Never cared to share.
22.09.2020. The Russian language is not afraid of borrowings; it is always eager to learn. The same can be said about the culture. The Russian is reflective learning however. At times one experiences consternation at the realization of not moral but philosophical implications of his actions. Salvation is the enemy of progress.
01.11.2020. Recently things come to a standstill. I feel like I am in the eye of the storm, and the storm is not the pandemic. Reading Dostoyevsky only adds to the sense of being forlorn. Yap, that lofty is the sense. In Dostoyevsky there is a remarkable lack of action, or rather action only leads to inaction, to an impasse of some kind. Reading The Adolescent took out all my oomph, and, with it, the need to express myself in writing. In the face of an absent audience, writing has long become a pleasurable activity of trying to find the best way to express myself in the language which is not my native. No, not as a challenge and more as a language game (in the most mundane sense of the word).
The problem with Dostoyevsky is that he presents a set of challenges which are not meant to be overcome. In that, he is as deceptive as he is straightforward, and his suffering is as ridiculous as it is enlightening. The writer is Versilov: he is ill, and he embodies his ills; hence the need for him being sick. I would like to continue my notes for a while by giving soem examples. Their purpose is dual. It is material for future projects (e.g., Tarkovsky research) as well as some gentle soul searching on the level of memorizing and discussing most memorable passages.
11.11.2020. Tarkovsky’s borrowings from Dostoyevsky are quite limited; they do not go as far as Brothers Karamazovs, but rise from smaller novels, especially The Adolescent. Thus, the idea of mystery that lives in every drop of water and that is commonly thought to be Japanese can be found in the conversation between Arkady and starets (wise man) (cf. CW, 10, 1982: 164). In the same novel, there are numerous descriptions of the ‘ordinary’ characters, such the young doctor, who spoke and behaved with such an attitude as if “he just yesterday found out something special, a mystery of sorts, although everyone knows that nothing special happened yesterday, and that it was all ulitsa (street), seredina (middle)” (ibid: 158). The problem is that all these ordinary characters are still somewhat ‘sick.’
13.11.2020. It is strange and somewhat disturbing (not clear why) to think of it, but it is indeed a fact that in the 19th century a Russian woman could propose to a man, although only if he was older than she. Dostoyevsky describes this situation in The Adolescent (cf. CW, 10, 1982: 108).
15.11.2020. From a conversation between Versilov and Arkady: “that cannot judge who did not suffer through to this right” (cf. CW, 10, 1982: 68).
17.11.2020. Nabokov, who considers Dostoyevsky a mediocre writer, a writer who is too much in a hurry to write and thus not as nearly as refined as Tolstoy, Gogol and Chekhov (in that order), has a point. For example, he claims that Dostoyevsky could have been a great dramaturgist: his novels consist almost entirely of dialogues (quite true); descriptions of nature or human domiciles are scarce; his characters are caricatures despite all the psychology that goes into them. Nabokov thinks Dostoyevsky is boring. I think that Nabokov was too peevish to appreciate Dostyevsky’s filth. He was refined and elitist to think of Dostoyevksy as his equal. Yet, his ‘equal’ – Ivan Bunin – was also unappealing to Nabokov, although we know of no reasons. No wonder, Bunin was just like Nabokov: peevish elitist with a panache for arrogance.
18.11.2020. Nabokov thinks of Dostoyevsky’s The Poor People as his best novel because it was ‘normal.’ A strange criterion for a proponent of ‘estrangement’ and an imagist.
20.11.2020. Tarkovsky was not ahead, but like many geniuses before him, he went backwards and was indeed behind in the sense of being old-fashioned, all his novelty and experimentation notwithstanding.
25.11.2020. In winter Brighton is the most beautiful: the sun makes it such: saturated white at the core it creates buttery background for thing, it is longing for you.
01.12.2020. Like my smallest son I have God for an imaginary friend. My God is not mischievous however but behaves more like a grandmother: he admonishes me before I even manage to finish my problem.
07.12.2020. There were two pieces of news about Russia that arrived back to back on Tass: someone stole some parts from the Judgment Plane and they discovered at the Pentagon Russian internet ‘moles.’ This is so us – stealing and being allowed to steal from the country’s most important piece of the post apocalyptic hardware and stealing from the most protected foreign resource. Unbelievable.
08.12.2020. John Gardner is a very simple writer. He writes like someone does sports – so well, one barely notices an effort. His The Resurrection also begins simply. It imitates or rather gives an American take of Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich, but as it is common with Gardner, there is no death at the end but a miracle. His James Chandler however is not a very distinct character. Perhaps it is because he speaks so little. There is very little dialogue in the novel, and the one that is there is delivered mostly by the third person speech. Delivering a character by way of dialogue gives the character more depth, as speech does, if well rendered, of course. Dostoyevsky, contrary to what Nabokov said, could do both exceptionally well.
09.12.2020. In The Resurrection, J. Gardner has a scene where James and his children are watching a group of boys from the local school for the blind play baseball. The ball has a bell in it, and the base players run after it holding onto a string. At some point in the game, they lose the ball and keep on searching for it in the grass on their knees and elbows bumping into each other unable to locate the ball that got silent. James’s oldest daughter sees the ball, as it lays about not even a foot away, and wants to help them but James screams at her telling her to stay away from the blind. The question that Gardner does not answer is why. Why does James not want to intervene? Is it about the blind children’s pride, or is it about their privacy, or is it his own condition, that of a man left two weeks to live?
11.12.2020. In the Resurrection there is a description of the common – for the Americans in the 1960-1970s prejudice against the Italians, who, among other things, did not speak very good English and irritated the natives by not caring to learn it properly and be understood. Yet, equally annoying were the German immigrants who tried their best to learn the language and speak it perfectly. Yet, the effect was the same: it was as laborious to listen to a German speaking slowly and correctly as it was listening to the gibberish an Italian produced. It appeared that in the mind of the native neither had any care for the interlocutor.
12.12.2020. One way to entertain myself when walking around the Green (St Helens Park) during the pandemic was thinking about fancy ways to express most simple situations. For example, for the situation that deals with an approaching end, I found J. Gardner’s ‘With this news the limits of his identity were set’ a very enticing one.
14.12.2020. When I travel from my Moscow apartment (located in the city’s North East) to the dacha (about 50 miles away from the city limits), I try to take an earlier commuter train. Called ‘elektrichka’ (essentially an electrical train), these sturdy, long and spacious trains (built in the olden times in East Germany at first and then replicated in Russia) are usually packed after 4pm and, unlike Metro, are unpleasant to travel long distances. Yet, earlier trains tend to gather more shoddy characters: the homeless, the unemployed, the freaks. I like to travel in their company and often look forward to sitting myself not too far (although granted – not too close) from them. I make an effort not to stare, just observe. For that I select a place for those who travel with bulky luggage, wheelchairs, prams, and bicycles. The designated passengers rarely occupy these spaces: most stations outside of the city are not wheelchair friendly, and mothers with small children rarely travel. Bicyclists too prefer the interim space. In short, watching the destitute is never (tbc)
25.12.2020. Luka was building the Chinese Lego knock-off I brought him from Russia. It was a better Lego Potter look alike called (not so well, I thought) “Magical Hands.” Perhaps it meant something for the Chinese in Mandarin. I hoped to pass the fake successfully, but the boy noted straight away that the characters depicted in the corner were dressed up like Harry Potter and his friends but did not look like them (European although, I thought). The rest was an exact copy, including the picture on the front and the back of the box. Still, for Luka, little inconsistencies as well as Chinese characters in place of the Lego logo meant that it was not ‘real,’ and so he pouted a bit and took time to warm up to the set. Finally, he began to build it. It is while building it that his sense of being given the ‘wrong thing’ manifested itself again. Every time he ran into a problem (not an actual one, but, say looking for a piece that ‘crawled away,’ he would swear under breath: “Damn French, can they even make anything right?!” And so, the Chinese fake contributed to the family discourse. Now, every time some shoddy item made in China fails our expectations, we say: “Damn French, can they even make anything right?!”
16.01.2021. Someone called Mask’s electrical pick-up ‘made of fence.’ Loved it. Iz zabora.
18.01.2021. Watching The Good Place and Motherland. What fun! Too embarrassing to write about them but at some point it would be cool to remember the experience. So just a reminder (Ted Danson is my absolute favorite). And Motherland – so very English. I watch it while exercising and as much as I want to finish quickly (hate exercising at home), I pause and just watch. Tanja and the kids love it as well. Reading Thornton Wilder’s Heaven is My Destination. Not as good as The Bridge…but the character of George Brush is quite familiar from many years of living in Illinois. Nostalgic already.
20.01.2021. Belatedly, perhaps due to the Covid situation, I have realized that some relationships are diseased like, that is, they are latent and run with no symptoms until they hit you hard at you weakest.
22.01.2021. On the same note: Luka’s pearl of the day was when he said on the walk at the downs that he does not want to kiss girls because he is afraid of ‘rubies.’ Nik, as a part of the same conversation, said that he does not like the girls who are ‘cupids’ meaning ‘stupids.’
23.01.2021. Thee English accent – that cultivated slowly rolling from the bottom of the chest, open mouthed pursed lips accent is absolutely perfect in expressing fake (controlled) disbelief with a dallop of sympathy, as in Ohh, de::a:.
30.01.2021. Luka, Nik and myself have been playing Lego pretty much every day. Two mixed (duplo plus standard) Lego palaces were built in my room and a large Hogwarts set was added to a bunch of square houses which are Luka’s specialty. We play with a mix of characters tending to superheroes. It is with this context in mind that I attended to Luka’s question: Who is powerfuller Larry or Thanos? Well, I knew about Thanos – we watched all the Avengers, including the End Game together not long time ago but Larry? Who the hell is Larry? Oh, I remembered. When playing Playmobil Luka liked to pick the most random insignificant guy (cook, pizza man, taxi driver) who would get a destiny and superpowers from Luka. Just so. He would always be powerfuller, using Luka’s word, than any magical creature or a king. Powerfuller but not any more interesting. And this is how Luka plays all his games. His ultimate scenario is the rise of a random figure who would come and kill everybody else. This is what he means every time and regardless of how we discuss how we would like to play our next game. Sometimes it takes him hours to do so. When we go on walks he jabbers non-stop, explaining his ‘vision’ of the game. Then we come home, settle in my room, his character jumps on a dragon or on some flying stick and kills everybody.
31.01.2021. In a country that excels in flat ass, a flat ass is nonetheless an insult when it comes from a woman, as Motherland (BBC series) made me acutely aware.
01.02.2021. I like this number combination. I wish I could turn it into music. “A gift should surprise and not impress” – from a strange man with a shaggy dog who walked past me at the downs the other day.
02.02.2021. Luka wants to name a new Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier ‘Harry Potter.’ I am with him. The world would be safer if instead of Tiger, a tank would be called Pickachoo or Bambie.
05.02.2021. The Corona times do have their advantages. The biggest is naval gazing tuned into an obsession with the most minute detail and your most immediate surroundings. I am talking about the Downs. Yes, that very boring, highly congested muddy narrow trail made on the site of the local stretch of the railroad thatused to connect the village of Hove, known as Hnagleton, where I live, with the farms up the hill. Well, both are still there – this is England, baby, as Tanja likes to say – but the railroad is not. Instead there is M21 that connects Hove to London which cuts the village off two fancy golf courses: one up and one down the hill, so actually you end up walking between the two.
After daily trips to the downs for several months you do come to know every loll and title of the way, every patch of dirt and every tree that stands out. You know where to pee unnoticed (children mostly) and where the road gets so narrow that incoming bicyclists endanger either you or yourself while passing by downhill. You learn you regulars: shaggy dog owners (shaggy refers to both) and young and chirpy mamas with free running kids, your weirdos and your gay couples, your teenage groups and nature lovers in long wellies and tourist backpacks roaming around where no pair of shoes of yours would allow you to go.
This when the landscape starts growing on you. It separates itself from the walkers and begins to call to itself not for any of its pretty spots: there none but for the changes in the folds and set-up. The sheep on the right up the hill moving around is one such ‘change.’ An occasional deer with a fawn is another. More pleasant though is the element-induced atmosphere: fog, which can be so dense that once I lost Luka in it after he walked ten yards into this porridge. Heavy rain is pretty but so is bright sun. The prettiest however are various intermediary states: twilight and afterlight, when the sunlight is buttery and heavy.
Up on the hill, all the way up one sees the ocean and the Brighton marina, but, sadly, wind mills stuck about a kilometer into the water defile an otherwise beautiful combination of two horizons (tbc).
06.02.2021. I was sorry to part with George Brush from Thornton Wilder’s Heaven’s My Destination. It was a fun character to know–albeit only as a fictional one–and follow. Could be a great character for a TV show.
07.02.20221. Especially pleasant to the sight the downs have been during the last few days when snow slightly, ever so slightly – this is England, baby – fell on surface, selectively, mostly on the bushes and the trees, plain uncovered earth simply swallowed the powdery substance. The kids got so excited and spent hours trying to scrape enough of that unfriendly material to build a snowman. I taunted them with stories about great Russian snow, but they preferred the actual toils to my parental reverie. But it is indeed the folds that are so varied despite their invariable structure. A change of weather, a change of season, a change of mood, they are all capable to bring about something new about the downs, which have become properly ‘own.’
08.02.2021. There is something very Japanese in the Hungarians…but not the other way round.
10.02.2021. A Covid story: the oldest woman in Europe, a 117 year-old nun, got Covid, and not only she had mild symptoms. Once she found out about the infection, she got disappointed–she really hoped to die; she has been looking forward to it for a very long time. What a bummer! But, as a nun, she cannot complain. God must have plans for her.
11.02.2021. Pikachu is my word for everything, and that pretty much makes it the first word of God.
12.02.2021. The downs are like a museum space, where, depending on the weather, it is possible to see, in the folds and crevices, a modern, postmodern, impressionist, Barbisonite and ancient painting. The colors, the topography, the atmosphere, even the perspective, change as periods and schools rather than weather conditions.
13.02.2021. Dostoyevsky writes most poetically about death. Savouring it.
14.02.2021. In October Light John Gardner overdoes it somehow. The two novels, the two contexts, run apart more than intended, it feels.
16.02.2021. Still, I am amazed at the skill of that very person I used to know who, born in a Ukranian shithole, trained in a vocation school as a film mechanic, hit it large in the 1980s by becoming a civil wife of a second rate oligarch. That was not as important however as her transition from a perpetual lumpen to a socialite. Guess where she has got that skill? By watching movies. Yeap. Good and bad Western movies. Over and over again she was watching and enacting them. She made it not by her marriage of convenience and the money that allowed her to settle in London, but by passing as what she has seen and coveted every day, as Hannibal Lecter put it in The Silence of the Lambs. She had the habituals, she worked out the walk and the talk to perfection. She was an ethnomethodological miracle. Agnes No2.
21.02.2021. Another numerological peculiarity. What does it mean tho? I shall return to the number later.
22.02.2021. I remember that as a child I thought that all adults have bad teeth by definition. Although there was a great deal of children with bad teeth as well. When I went to the States for the first time, I was astounded to see so much good and great white even teeth. Now that I live in England I am back to my childhood as an adult with bad teeth. ‘You should not smile so much,’ my youngest said the other day. ‘Your teeth are yellow and crooked.’ I should have stayed in the States.
24.02.2021. The downs surprised me again. Not only it became more, for we went to the other side of the hill, it became properly erotic, as its folds and crevices and nooks and corners and holes and dimples became to connote not a painting but a body, an erotic body, to be exact. There is sense of communion I have when I go there. Not coitus but communion. Intercorporeality of the mythopoetic kind.
25.02.2021. I built a Lego Duplo Small Lego city for Luka, but he does not want to live there (his character does not). As it has become common, he refers to play on the outskirts in his own space. So, he built himself a border town, where his character rules. It is as tough as the actual street life for a kid, not that he knows any of it. It is also as rugged: bricks poorly attached, holes and incompletes everywhere. But he can roam there freely and most importantly aimlessly. In my city, one can only drink tea, play the guitar, dance with Vampira and Mystic, keep money in the safe and hold an occasional business meeting. Booooring.
28.02.2021. John Gardner’s October Light is not treating me well. Somehow I have as much difficulty associating with the imaginary ‘pulp fiction’ characters as I have with the realistic ones. James and Sally are too old for me, while Peter and the Captain are too grotesque. I did not have that problem when I read the book at 27. So, thirty years later, it does not sit well with me any more. Sadski.
02.03.2021. Now that I have admitted to myself of the erotic nature of the downs, walking there has not become more exciting. On the contrary, I feel shy treading the all familiar paths. Even looking down at the folds makes me self-conscious. I remember in this regard a photo exhibit I attended in Berlin fifteen years ago. It was called Landscaping the Body and consisted of several series of photographs depicting female and male naked bodies with tiny figurines on them, the kind of figurines model train companies make for landscape. Like in a group of tourists climbing up a woman’s breast, or lumberjacks sawing off you know what. Actually, most photos were quite tasteful and the body indeed blended in with the figurines as if it was earth. Watching Mandalorian 2 with the kids. Grogu is adorable.
06.03.2021. ‘Doing nothing successfully’ was what she put as the title for her own project when the group got together for the first time. Unreflectively, or so self-assured and arrogant she was, she did not even for a second thought that with these words she was describing her own style of working with three other researchers in a comparative project for its entire duration. And, yes, the three researchers did use these words to mock her behind her back; for a long time it was our own consolation ad a way to deal with the impostor. It began on ‘the hard to reject’ continuum: using her children and health as an excuse to miss meetings and other group engagements, being late with bits, being tardy with her rare appearances, while networking on the side, taking time to contribute as little as possible to the group, preparing the ground for her next career step. In the course of four years, she wrote five publishable pages. She was a sham, but extremely savvy and strategically brilliant. Attending fully to potential donors and promoters, she managed to woo them on her side, building her academic career on fellowships and grants. We did not know where she got them, who recommended her, but she did get them despite that her only skill was careful attending. She was great at going with the wind. She positioned herself as different as that let her a chance to stand aside as if it was a stand. And she spoke little. Only then she would speak when she was absolutely sure she could do it to her advantage. She was great on paper. Two degrees from posh European Unis landed her first job in a jiffy. The project director was drooling at the prospect of working with her. She allowed for that. The other two researchers bought into that image as well. At first. I remember how…Acting down to earth helped her create an impression of accessibility, which, as it turned out later, had nothing to offer. She was extremely narrow and poorly educated. She came to academia from a profession and her lack of theoretical depth shined through. Her understanding of the project’s goals and methods was minimal; yet, she spoke little, avoiding at all costs of putting herself on the line, staying in the shadows. Now, almost seventeen years later, she speaks about discrimination of women in academia. Then she took three years off the project as maternity leave, planning to return to it when it would be effectively over so that she could collect her salary for two more years, working off the project’s agenda on her own stuff, contributing nothing to what she had been hired for in the first place. All this time she had an unemployed spouse at her side, who was taking care of the children (tbc).
07.03.2021. She was one of the most opportunistic academics I have ever met. Using politically correct trends, feminism, cultural pluralism, race, she quickly joined the community of the same kind: shallow critical thinkers with thoughtful faces. Her groupies were just like her, only not so successful, but certainly as ‘thoughtful.’ She was so good at doing nothing successfully that it took more than a year of my life to bring her down, to expose her. It was not my business to do so, but I couldn’t help myself. To me she was an abomination. It was worth fighting for her to be gone, but I was a wreck at the end. I was traumatized to the core by seeing something others did not see or did not care to see. They saw a thoughtful and pleasant woman who could maintain a polite conversation, small talk. It was I who was fuming and ill-meaning, impolite and harassing. When we occasionally, very occasionally, met in the coffee room she would hiss at me or glare with hatred unless. She was very careful about leaving no paper trail or any other evidence of her attitude however; after all, she was the cool one, and her previous profession taught her about the need to keep face and not get exposed. She even changed her telling name, the one that betrayed her nationality to a neutral English one (well, her vanity did get in the way, it belonged to a socialite actress), altho there was nothing English about her. Of course, there were accusations of male chauvinism and power mongering, there were third party interventions and threats. It was a hard battle to win. I was alone in it: I spoke to many people who cared about me and they listened, but none appreciated my investment in this conflict. They all emphasized the psychological underpinnings of the clash: my jealousy of her special status, my damaged ego. Only after her arrogance took the better of her, – being so detached from the community which she got paid to serve, she began to lose touch, she slipped. Hiding behind the veil of academic integrity, she harmed the project by willfully obstructing its outcomes. She was dismissed for the last stage and replaced by another participant. I felt like I did something important. Now, as I found out through a chance occurrence, she has risen again and although her accomplishments speak for themselves–same shallow critique spread thinly on top of big words–she continues matronly, positioning herself as a scholar with an edge. She is indeed an academic species. I have seen her kind in other contexts as well. Smart enough to adapt quickly and persistent enough to get what they want…I do not wish her well.
08.03.2021. Well, well, Alex. That was some March 8th rant! A perfect gift to women for the International Women’s Day. The timing is a good reminder that this dribble should not continue.
09.03.2021. Or perhaps it shall but in a different vein, as a memorium to those women in academia who shine as an example of true integrity, academic courage and imaginative force. One was my Master’s advisor, who was as nurturing of the difference as she was fierce in defending her beliefs. She was solid as a rock, but most importantly, by way of productive contrast, she was respectful and giving, transparent and at all times accountable. I sound like I am writing an obituary, somewhat exaggeratedly and overexcitedly for something that was meant to pass; yet, the memory of her kindness is still with me. It was the kindness of an equal; it directed me without any imposition. I do believe now, a quarter century later, that it was a woman in her that made me remember her in this way. This woman I wish only well.
10.03.2021. Well, that was a bit sentimental but hey, I am getting old. Memories flush over me like actual experiences used to do. On a different note: it was a bad machine day today. Two computers, a TV set, a window washer, and a vacuum cleaner all gave up to function properly in the same capricious way. Like it was the Revolution of Gadgets, the Wrath of Appliances. Yeap, like a bad hair day, only with household machines. Same happens with clothes, but that would be the subject of a separate entry.
11.03.2021. Nik missed the school the other day because he overate. This is capitalism for you, baby. When I was a kid and lived in a communist I missed school because I underate (well, not really). His performance of being sick was rather tedious: he did not have much to show but had to give us something, so gave us being agrieved. Like deeply saddened by his affliction. It was hard to play along, but I did not wish to burst his bubble. The boy is way too sensitive to criticism.
14.03.2021. Yesterday Luka and myself went to buy flowers for the Mother’s Day. As it has been common because of the pandemic our destination was Tesco Express, a small chain grocery store up the hill about twenty minutes away walking distance. I like going there with Luka: we discuss ‘serious’ business: Minecraft, God, school, my hair, cars. When in the store, I let Luka pick the flowers. The Brits tend to have nice flowers around here, mostly tulips and roses. Of course he went for the vile colored green and blue ones. I moved him toward a more traditional pink and white mix. At this point a man standing next to me said: “You are lucky you have your son helping you out. I have been here for twenty minutes and can’t make up my mind.” I smiled (perhaps even chuckled) said something, like “Right. Yeah” and moved away. It was embarrassing. I mean, my response was embarrassing to me. It was so blah incompetent, so delayed and other unfriendly. But it has been so common: I have such bad skills with spontaneous communication. I do not act on the spot and I do not, unable rather, engage in small talk as nearly as well as or as fast as the English do it. For that reason, the incident lingered, and, as is often the case, for a long time back home I replayed it in my head imagining saying things like “Yeap, it is good to have him around for these things. I can always blame him later” or simply “He knows mom better than I do” or “It is mother after all.” But “Right. Yeah.” I guess the earlier diagnosis is correct: I am a sociopath and a misantrope. A bit like cranky James in Gardner’s October Light.
17.03.2021. The world of Lego Luka and myself have built is crumbling. The news are not god. First, my character Prof. Dumbledore (I spell the name Dumble d’Ore)–and no, I do not pretend to be the wise one, I do acknowledge my age however, and Prof. was the oldest figurine after Yoda (like, there is a child who wants to be a Yoda?) we have—lost his hair (yes, just like in real life: it was stolen–go figure), then Thanos returned to capture the Ice World, then President Business (appropriately, Nik’s character) turned to the Dark Side. Luka (character also named appropriately for the boy who takes things literally) retired to his Border Town from which he observes the crumbling Union. The complexities of the game are stipulated not only an uncanny mix of characters and worlds, as well physical persona, but our personalities and playing strategies. Luka plays to win (when he looses he pouts), Nik plays to gain more stuff (he hates to give it away), while I play to be entertained or rather not bored.
18.03.2021. Working on Tarkovsky for five years put me in a pickle, in a quandry, in a state of uncertainty. I invested so much time in this research that I acquired a great deal of facility. I feel comfortable. I can go on milking my subject until I retire or die. There is so much stuff. At the same time, I am getting more and more bored and fidgety. I want out. So, it seems I am facing a stand-off: security versus adventure. Been there with translation and law already. Not an easy choice as you go on. New stuff is harder to learn and easier to loose. But the pressure of less and less time makes the opposite demands. What is it gonna be?
21.03.2021. Dumbledore turned out to be a Jedi knight (yes, we have been re-watching Star Wars). He found his hair and a Jedi attire. he has a lazer sable and that look in his eyes. His sweetie McGugligan dos not like the change. All he talks about is the Force. He even brings it into their intimate relationship: no she does not like to go on forever. She is a quickie kinda girl. In the meantime, Luka is building a retreat (watched an episode of Gadget Man about camping), while President Business (future Dar Vader) is gone. A rendez-vous with the Dark Side?
22.03.2021. It has been very impish around here.
23.03.2021. John Gardner wrote: I look forward to the world in crisis because crisis gives the world the best art. I am not sure how to take this. Jamaica is always in crisis as is Haiti. They do not give the world any art. On the other hand, Finland, the ‘happiest’ country four years in a row, or Sweden, give the world very decent art. He probably meant the Western world at its most artistic.
24.03.2021. Nik has his birthday today. H has turned out to be a very interesting boy. It was fun to watch him busying himself with the gifts: RC car, Karaoke, Lego. Luka took the shift of attention very well.
25.03.2021. Our playing Lego has deteriorated beyond sanity. While Luka is flying around, building as he does, Nik moved all his precious Lego in the interum (hallway), where he created a powerful protection field disallowing other players to enter. My character in the meantime would want to adjust which basically meant sitting between the boy who does not let other children to play with his toys and the boy who liked to play by himself. It would be impossible for poor Dumbledore to step out of the game for his presence was deemed indispensable. The plight of a parent. We need you but we don’t really need you.
27.03.2021. On Luka’s birthday today, during dinner, Nik all of a sudden announced that his house is hardly a ‘mansion.’ When we started mocking him, Luka joined in by saying that he, Luka definitely does not want a big house, just big enough not to get lost on the way to the Lego room. Lego room? Oh, the boy got it from all the older and wiser ones at the table. Aha, so you want a house small enough to be able to go trough the cat’s room, the football room, the TV room, the million zillion trinkets room safely without getting lost. You demands are modest, young Luka Room Walker. Let the Force guide through the galaxy of rooms. You will find the way… Although generally touchy, Luka was okay being the brunt of our jokes for – typically – it is Nikolai who has the privilege.
28.03.2021. Luka tried the bike today. Got self-conscious but showed promise.
29.03.2021. The bike is conquered. Although heavy and bit long, Luka got it. He will ride!
30.03.2021. I still hold in my mind those pics they have just shown in the news: Putin and Shojgu in Tuva dressed up like two cuddly bears from Star Wars, two Ewoks. Embarrassing and not just as a confirmation of the suspicion that Putin does not have a sense of style. Why would he? Look at his DDR pics – living across the border from FRG could allow a Soviet to throw in a decent wardrobe. No, here, it is always a miss, which is only appropriate for the grey cardinal. One shall be reminded however of the place the Ewoks had in Star Wars. Yeap. The primitives. So, why not nano-tech lab-engineered techno clothes? Just to show how advanced we are? Why full body shearling suits instead? To show that you are fluffy and cuddly? And who are these people who want to buy the same (apparently there is a queue at this local custom clothes maker) fashion scream? To go where?
31.03.2021. Sometimes, I feel an urge to invent a drink–must be the latent mixologist in me. Something vodka, gin, sparkling something, plus juice and sweet liqueur. Well, obviously it is not gonna happen soon.
01.04.2021. My father was an April’s fool junkie. All my childhood on April 1st, we would have been awakened to floods, fire, police, visitors, in other words, disturbing and not so funny events. Practical joking was his hobby.
02.04.2021. The children have become a bit too English: I barely understand them. Nik mumbles under his nose and Luka developed a high pitched voice like
03.04.2021. There are explicit indications of age with me: I speak very loudly and I repeat myself. Like, repeat myself. Yes, repeat myself. Perhaps it is also children who are responsible: screaming has never been so rampant and explaining usually implies saying things twice and then rephrasing them the third and the fourth. It is laborious for me. Tanja who does it for a living with her students seems to have an easier time.
04.04.2021. Cultivated slowness is the way of the English.
06.04.2021. At dinner Luka said to me: Dad, you have a six pack on your forehead. Nik added: Yeap, he has been training his head for 56 years.
08.04.2021. He was laying on the pavement. His face was a shade of spade.
09.04.2021. When I read October Light thirty years ago–I can establish the date precisely for I found an Amtrack ticket to New York in the book; it was dated April 9, 1991–I was more interested in the Smut Part. Now I cannot stand reading it, being entirely focused on Sally and James or The Good Fiction Part. At the time, the theme of Richard’s suicide did not strike me as depressing. Now, I had to skip all references to it. The word ‘vissisitude’ I cannot spell correctly. Ever.
10.04.2021. Luka’s most common conversational openings. 1) You know, dad, on Minecraft… 2) Okay, what shall we talk about with Lego? 3) Do you know what ‘skin’ is? Do you know what ‘avatar’ is?
11.04.2021. I have to record this dream of mine. My dreams have not been beautiful for years, weird more like it, and bad weird to that, but this takes the cake. It is a paradigmatic early morning dream that I have. It begins with a place I know, I have the key to, but it is not a private place – a dorm of some kind, and I sit in the lobby. I have my my staff there. I am looking through it unable to find things to wear. There are suitcases and bags and hangers everywhere. All of a sudden lights go off and then people come. After they are gone, my things are gone as well. Including my wallet, my backpack, my phone, my jacket, my bags. I throw in someone’s jacket and attempt to find my things. I am anxious. I know that I am supposed to teach an English class. My boss is Thomas from Berlin. I see him from afar and wave to him. He pretends not to notice. My colleague Kati is with him. She looks away. In my mind I see students seating in the classroom waiting for me, but I am late. I will never make it. My anxiety shoots through the roof. There are people everywhere carrying others’ things, going through their luggage, etc. I see a familiar bag in the hands of a Chinese man. There are lots of them around. I take it away. He grins. I drop the bag. It is too heavy to carry. In a long corridor I see a woman who has twenty pairs of watches in her hands. One of them is mine. I reach out for it, but she throws them in the bin. I run. The lights are still off, only emergency lights are blinking. I walk outside and find myself on a university campus. It is a generic one, but the little voice inside me tells me that it is SUNY Albany (I was there as an exchange student in 1984). In any case, the campus is all being built. It is a huge construction site. I am totally disorientated. I am asking for directions and find myself on the scaffolding. I jump. People laugh. Two young girls jump on top of me. I run. One of them screams: Did you like it, grandpa? I see a zoo with a giraffe, lion, and panther. I come closer and see a snow leopard that looks like a man in a costume. It lays in shallow pit trying to get out. A stocky woman with huge arms is beating it. Now and then she slaps a person in a crowd of bystanders. It is getting dark. The campus is now lit by construction projectors. An older person passes by. I ask for directions, wondering why it is that I want to get to the center of the campus, its main square. What do I need there? He points in some random direction and quickly walks away. I am running around. I am getting tired. The campus is the size of a small city, and there are fresh pits and piles of garbage and construction materials everywhere. In my pockets I feel a bunch of keys and get excited. My car should be around some place. Maybe it is what I am looking for. But the keys and not mine. There are small and twisted. I also find a phone in my pocket. It looks like a fake phone we used to get in party bags at children’s birthdays. An adult professor-like type passes by. I ask for directions again. He explains in detail, but I cannot remember a single thing. I panic and wake up.
13.04.2021. Dumble D’Or was very naughty today. Not only did he speak all morning with a hideous Scottish accent (the influence of Staged no doubt), but he also built himself a gaudy little speed boat (ex-Indiana Jones Turkish thing), a gold Mercedes of boats type of thing which he equipped with numerous gadgets, including alien techno plates, Hobbit’s self-finding map, a kind of Tom-Tom of the Lord of the Rings, three Mandalorian guns, a Sponge Bob’s special ‘red phone,’ and a bunch of Toy Story explosive sticks, a siren and a very tall golden flag in the back (like you would not be able to notice this THING a mile away). Then, together with Maggy McGuggligan, his ‘partner,’ well, partner in crime at this point, he began to harass the inert and somewhat dull but otherwise harmless Darty (Darth Vader) and his friend, an ex-Jedi Luke (now Luke-the-ice cream-vendor) by demanding to sell him Grogu (baby Yoda) or ELSE! He went as far as firing at the TieFigher, Dart’s favorite space vehicle, making him cry like a baby, stealing Thanos’ hand (Luka’s treasure memo from the times he chopped it from the big doofus), and screaming obscenities (still with real bad Scottish accent) at the poor Uds who tried very hard to liven the atmosphere by playing Adele.
For the first time in his Lego-playing career, dad (plays Dumble D’Or) was pronounced unfit to play with Nik and Luka who subsequently voted him out and continued (to his secret delight: khi-khi) without him. It was very very sad (khi-khi), bot not much sadder than encountering Sherlock’s sister East Wind (Urus) in the last episode of Sherlock that we watched last night. Strange days!
15.04.2021. I am quite shocked at my complete lack of taste in music. Not only do I go for the worst cheese there is, I am enjoying such questionable characters as Dido, ABBA, Eruption, Chinghiz Khan (no idea how one spells it) tre-men-dously. It is particularly embarrassing to admit because I listen to all this schmalz on YouTube, meaning that I do not just listen to it, but see it, it being .. well .. plainly inadmissible in a palace of beauty. The costumes alone are so vulgar and cheap that it is literally painful to concentrate on the music. Yet, this sensory Bacchanalia continues to be very appealing. Moreover, it has got routinized via the list that YT created for me. I just press the button and it starts flowing into my ear, offending yet pleasing something deeply seeded inside me. Oj.
16.04.2021. Of course, it can be just a sign that I am aging, not wanting to move on, holding to the familiar, etc. Perhaps. In food – for sure. But why then such an aversion to the same YT videos where my favorites–The Boss, Led Zep, Jagger–are performing now, still carrying the tune at the venerable age of 70plus? Why this repulsion and mockery that I bestow on the much aged actors? Say, in Staged – Michael Palin, Woopy Goldberg, Sam Jackson, or Fisher and Ford in the latest Star Wars? Ah, I see, here it is about not wanting to age with them. I hate birthdays (you sound like Peanuts, Al).
23.04.2021. Was my birthday that memorable for me not to write for over a week? Well, actually it was and not only because Tanja made sure there was an unlimited flow of Champaign, and Danny’s stepped in to deliver a shmogarsboard (another spelling pathology) of Chinese yammies (no matter how I spell it, the word comes out wrong every single time, while it was pretty good, the food I mean), and the kids in by now a traditional manner gave me not surprise but target gifts, mostly clothes but also books and toys (yeap, toys: Lego, Playmobil – Tanja’s gifts, but stress balls/bouncy balls – Nik’s thing), but because it was not stressful in any way (well, why would it be stressful with a pack of stress balls around?). The celebration flowed seamlessly into our evening routine but had a quality of a festivity. What more can one desire in the Corona times?
24.04.2021. I did mention that special expertise that Nik has about stress balls. Well, it is not really expertise but more like obsession or rather an obsessive fad (it is subsiding). To give you a taste, for his birthday he asked all of us to give him a variety of stress balls – his choice. Well, I must say that it was pretty smart for the makers of sex toys to diversify and enter the children’s toy market. One stress ball that he ordered should be nominated as the all times winner: a blue giant ‘tit’ ball. It is so huge (yes, very much around) that it cannot be held by one hand (equivalent of size 36B, I reckon). I mean my hand. But when a child handles it, it becomes the sight I have seen in Illinois once or twice with a member of the ‘Let Your Child Drink from Mommy Until He Turns 20,’ and I don’t care to see it again. It was that kind of holding. Both hands, squeezing in and out, pulling sideways, stretching the edges. Remember GOT, the mad sister’s place, her demented son? Aha.
25.04.2021. Luka woke up with a body ache again. Poor thing, we thought. He must be sleeping wrong or there might be something wrong with his mattress, his pillow…in any case, it was worth investigating. We pulled the blanket and slowly like that slowly when in a horror film the hero is walking inside a monster’s lair, things began to emerge: twelve small, two big, and one humongous plush animals, one flash light, two cups, one Matreushka doll (six pieces), a brush, an RC car, two matchbox cars, one Playmobil animal, a handful of Lego pieces, a microphone, a bicycle bell, a shoe, four pairs of pants, a dozen of single socks, five shirts, including two baby ones, two pounds in change and ten pound note, a pen, another pen, a last year surprise egg, one small and one large book and finally, to cap it all – a brand new single cup Italian espresso maker I bought for my mom a year ago. Oh no, this is not the end of the story. The story ended with Luka’s arrival (after all these remains were properly and neatly tidied away) for his bedtime at 8:30 (yeap, our boys are on a relaxed schedule). Arrived Luka, climbed up (his is a bank bed) to his new and improved lair and started screaming: Where is my staff? Where is everything? We are, ah, like, Everything? What everything? He goes: Where is my Mad Hatter’s Hat? Indeed. Where is it?
27.04.2021. In his diary Tarkovsky writes about a beautiful dream that he saw, a dream about some angelic appearance (blagodat’, we say in Russian). I am jealous: all I saw last night was salad: ruccolla, spinach, iceberg. I was in it, trying to make my way out. The night before was a bit better: gnomes. Not the friendly kind of garden gnome, but the evil Hobbit kind of gnome type. And no, I don’t want to know what it means. Leave me alone, Carl!
28.04.2021. Nik is rehearsing for a role in Russian. It requires that he speak the language. Of course, he doesn’t. He sounds like he is in an American film where speaking highly accented Russian is a part of the alien aesthetics, like he is faking an accent. I don’t mind. It just reminds me that it has been a matter of principle for me not to burden the kids with my native tongue on account of its uselessness. Babushka has to deal: imposing a foreign language outside of its living environment, its context, is like having an aquarium for a lake. The fish tank is not nature: it is a hobby at best. A language can be a hobby all right, but not for a child. Not a popular view, granted, especially with foreign moms around here who speak Hungarian, Polish, mandarin, what not with their kids in public and no doubt in private. This ‘kitchen mother tongue’ does not know how to fly and wilts as soon as the kids move out. How about I teach my kids to spell ‘ruccolla’ correctly instead?
29.04.2021. To remind myself of my past transgressions and the ‘hard times’ my body underwent at some point, I put a photograph of my prune like face, slit like eyes and baggy cheeks (ironically, a photo for my new American passport) in my wallet, which reminded me of a real event that took place years ago with a female friend. Trying to wean herself of eating, she took a full body picture of herself naked, accentuating a huge belly and as sizable a butt. She taped the picture inside the fridge, so that every time she tried to sneak out yet another snack, she could see the abominable image and stop herself. One day in the summer, her apartment got flooded. She had to deal with a bunch of workers for an entire day. It was very hot. So she invited the workers to use the fridge and take whatever drinks they could find there to refresh themselves. You can imagine her shock when two of the three workers, independently of each other, showed up at her door that very evening armed with a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of bubbly. The punchline? How about: They too wanted to help her shed a couple of pounds. Or, love and fridge do mix (oh, that is silly) or…What do I get if someone sees MY shame?
01.05.2021. The kids have been bickering all evening about the best Sherlock–R. Downey Jr. or Cumberbatch? And the best Watson: Jude Law or Martin Freeman? And the best Moriarty I cannot make my mind either. There are also two old BBC productions and I like the Russian Sherlock V. Livanov, but that is undoubtedly a cultural prejudice. We are watching Elementary now. I don’t like the Sherlock, but it is okay for a family evening.
02.05.2021. Sometimes, I need to rough up the edges in my writing by allowing a good share of colloquialisms. Science reflects as much as it explores. Science anticipates. It can be messianic. I saw lots of hay in my dream last night. Not like roll in the hay but hay as hay.
04.052021. There is person in my life who suffers from paedogolism. Well, she is obsessed with adopting children. It is indeed a pathology, a deviation. She does it ‘for herself.’ Yes, that explicitly. It is therefore not altruism but egoism that motivates her. Does she provide good living conditions? Yes, she does. Does she provide love and emotional support? Yes, she does. Does she perform the mother for the child? That too. Why am I suspicious then? because time passes and the fix wears off, and , as it is common with children who get puppies for Christmas, a few months later, years, in this case, and they grow up and become less cute and, in the case of humans, less dependent, more demanding. Then, the person starts looking for another fix, another cute little toddler or, in this case, an infant, bringing him or her into the nest where other no longer infants still desire to have what they used to have but do not have any longer. TBC.
05.05.2012 (right – wishful thinking of finger-tipping) 2021. Sereuzha Luneuv. The name jumped at me when I was reading an expert opinion on one of the Russian news portals about the European sanctions. The expert was one Sergei Luneuv, Professor of International Economics at the elite Moscow Institute of Foreign Affairs. Can’t be Sereuzha, I thought. Sereuzha was my classmate at the secondary school No 708 in Moscow. We studied together for seven years and sat at the same desk for two. Both of us were into arts. Well, he was. I was just tagging along. He was an immensely talented painter. Again, more like a graphics artist; his images of Roman soldiers attacking, Hannibal fleeing, Spartacus and Nero, and horses, especially those of horses were circulating in the school in the same manner other collectables did: beer caps, candy wrappers, comics. I, his friend, was the direct recipient of those. I will not be surprised to find a few in in the attick (sp?) in my Moscow apartment. Myself, I specialized in clay (plasticin) figurines, mostly soldiers. At the time, our history teacher was Vjacheslav Pjecukh, a ‘banned’ graduate student from the Moscow Institute of History (he became a famous writer during perestroika). He organized a history club where myself and Sergei enjoyed a full-time and privileged status (I because I was incredibly read-up and he because he was an artist and did ‘backgrounds’ for our games. We got together every week for two years after classes and enacted famous battles and other historical events (e.g., burning of Joan D’Arc) with plasticin figurines and what nots. We built kingdoms: landscape (trees and whole mountains), fortresses, troops, and some of us had huge armies in hundreds of cavalry and infantry but also ships. As a craftsman, I was Piecukh’s imitator. I imitated his neat detailed style, my shapes were accurate and meticulous. Sergei’s stuff on the contrary was wild. Like his painting, his world featured broad brave strokes. His soldiers were not at all realistic but extremely appealing. His images of horses, again, were astounding in their wild verve, so to speak. He was so free with his art that I felt jealous. Now I want to say that it was the hand of God that guided his. But he was also very damaged. His parents. I met them once or twice, were alcoholics. They were also extremely poor. Sergei would wear the same shirt and shoes for years. That is why I also remember him so vividly. They were also abusive. In those times, it was okay for a child to appear with a bruise, and he sported many. He claimed he got into street fight, but i knew they his dad beat him on a regular basis. He was a loner no doubt. We did not spend much time after school. We soon parted ways; he did not take his GCSEs and left school at the age of fifteen. My mother and I encouraged him to take the exams, and then apply to a polytech or something, something artistic, but he was stubborn. I completely lost track of him afterwards, expecting that life swallowed him whole. I thought of him though. With trepidation I googled up Professor Luneuv. I remembered Sereuzha as having a very Russian appearance: long nosed, horse-faced, small blue eyes. I did not recognize my friend in the professor, but God knows – I wished with all my heart that I would.
06.05.2021. Returning to magical realism (Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Lois Ray) is strange. I was fascinated with the Latin American literature and magical realism in my twenties. Reading this kinda stuff now is a bit boring and certainly not as nearly magical. At the same time, I am fully enjoying the style. The physical book itself adds to it. It is a 1927 edition (they called it ‘impression’ then) published nearby in Croydon. It is published on the kind of paper they sell in arts and crafts stores: thick cream-colored, rough at the edges. Reading this book reminded me of what an extent reading a book used to be a tactile experience, especially during my childhood (90 per cent of all boks were hard cover). Just touching the pages makes it magical. A few quotes from the book: “…missing the whole purport of literature, which the notation of the heart. Style is but the faintly contemptible vessel in which the bitter liquid is recommended to the world.”
08.05.2021. Luka, who likes to jabber, has an entry way into a conversation. It goes like this: You know, dad, in Lego… Or: You know, dad, in Minecraft… As a parent I felt like I had to play along and suffer as a result until I have realized that I can also start a conversation with him by using the same technique. You know, son, in Life. Or, You know, son, in Thornton Wilder. Khm.
09.05.2021. Of course, I watched the parade.
10.05.2021. Nik has a difficulty saying [r], so I have made a silly tongue twister for him: ‘Robocop Robert rode his red railcopter roughly and randomly.’ I am not sure the twister is going to fly (or ride to that matter).