Notes

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.

14.12.19

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.

01.09.2020.

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 a funky 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. It was not as magnificent, not as I used to remember it. Moreover, it was not as touching. I guess even the most sacred memory is wearing out. I noticed something desperate in it, and Putin appeared more lonely than ever, especially next to the President of the poorest Central Asian republic (state). The cries Long Live Putin! did more bad than good to the image of the ‘tired’ President. The designer who covered the Mausoleum with brightly colored boards should be fired: cheap and out of place. I liked the marching troops, but that is a given. The tanks and stuff were not much different than I remember them. In sum, the Parade needs a major rebranding.

On a personal side, I remembered and drank to both of my grandfathers, the one who died in the first week of the war and the one who started his sadly uneventful military service (he was in a heavy artillery unit, always staying in the back) in the Finnish war in 1939 and ended in Manchuria in 1946.

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).

11.05.2021. Actually, the English mute their ‘r’s at the end pf a word. Nik, who speaks with the English accent, although the German mom and the Russian dad, get into his accent to contaminate it with ‘z’s and flat consonants, has a problem only with ‘r’s in the beginning of a word. The tongue twister should emphasize those ‘r’s, as in Robocor Robert drove his red roomy Romeo (it is never roomy, a Romeo, it is Italian after all), no better Rover (so English too) rambunctiously.

12.05.2021. We have been inventing TV shows. I suggested a cooking show ‘Make her happy, bachelor!’ where single men would cook for their loved ones who too are a part of the show. Like behind the curtains or through a video link or in the audience or something. The environment could be competitive as in having several men cook for the same girl (there is an English date show like it, or do I not remember well?). She will taste the food blindly and name the winner. Another show could be a Russian Top Gear testing all kinds of Soviet made cars.

13.05.2021. There is some urgency in defining a nation’s raison d’etre. A suspicion is brewing, in the wake of the pandemic, that for the English it is the pub, a pint at 4-5pm. I will tread carefully thought with this assumption. Not just on account of its unfortunate allusion to alcoholism, but I don’t want to stereotype my ‘host’ nation too crudely. In other words, “I understand the implications of this ascription. I need more time,” as Sherlock likes to say in Elementary. It is getting late anyway. These notes do not write well in the morning though.

14.05.2021. Can one say that a certain language is better to measure man and things than another? Is something like fixed word order makes a particular language more insightful?

15.05.2021. Moskovich is a drink that has 1/2 cherry juice, 1/4 lime vodka and 1/4 Cointreau. A really nice Martini. Another personalized drink is Aleksasha. It has 1/3 milk, 1/3 coffee liqueur (better not cream based such as Amarulo) and 1/3 vodka. Kozi, Oh Yes is a pina colada variation. It has 1/4 coconut milk, 1/4 pineapple juice, 1/4 pina colada, and 1/4 vodka. A bit too accidity much for the stomach, a rough drink.

19.05.2021. Why is that I often see in my nightmares a middle-aged (well, my age, by now) woman who is supremely strict with me? In real life, this type of a woman would always find me objectionable, as a child, and as a teenager, as a young man, and as an adult. Objectionable and demeaning. Tonight, in a dream, this kind of woman did not want to sell me a ticket, making it impossible for me to return home. Earlier, the same kind of woman, heavy set and with high hair (perhaps, hair bun) would fire me or give me the worst mark or send for my parents or chew me out for burning something outside. An archetypal witch.

20.05.2021. “It was not of him, at all events, that the bitterest tongue in France had remarked only fifty years before: that many people would never have fallen in love if they had not heard about it” (T. Wilder). I was there as well…half time, anyway. There is also a great bit on twins (Esteban and Manuel) in the “Bridge.”

21.05.2021. As Tanja was making her book about pregnancy and birth ready for publication today we slid into sharing our experiences that dealt with the birth of our three sons. One experience of mine stuck to mind, but until then, I did not have a chance to reflect on it. I remember that during Luka’s birth which was home birth–it took place in the living room of our old place in Hove–I had to assist the midwife (it was not an emergency), who was struggling trying to free the newlyborn from the afterbirth. It was at that point that I realized that vagina had another unique and perhaps greater function, that it was not a sexual thing that meant entry but another thing that meant exit, that things other than come and pee could emerge from it. I realized it and was shocked. I even thought that it was the end of the vagina that I had known. Good lord, thank you! I was wrong.

22.05.2021. Another related topic was discussed the next day. I have a friend who had her second boy a few years ago. In the past, I would offer some of the clothes that our boys have grown out of but we still kept because they were cute and of high quality to friends and relatives. I would offer but the response, as in this case, would be lukewarm at best. It appeared, especially with younger people, that they did not want used clothes for their children. It also appeared that many of the refusniks did not want anything used in their lives. In grocery stores, these people would buy the freshest. In cars, they would only buy new ones. The same in appliances and furniture. After some deliberations, Tanja and myself came to the conclusion that this attitude had to do with being selfish, that it is egomania that prevented these people from accepting things that were not their own first. This assumption requires further examination of course, but the idea is exciting and refreshing. It is much better that a shot in the direction of peevishness or some clinical pathology. Personally, I am a scavenger, as is my sister. We would not hesitate to wash a hat we found in the street and wear it. When I walk into a grocery store I gravitate to the clearance shelf. In Berlin I would make trips to Ikea’s Fundgrube. The refusniks would go to a premiere, I would go to the Sunday boot sale at the racing tracks. A rat.

23.05.2021. My father was a handy man by the book. Literally so. He was a book worm. He did not have a father himself (died when my dad was five years old), but he wanted to be a handy man. With the hammer and nail. As in – handy – man. And so he would buy these do-it-yourself books. He forced me to go by the book as well. I on the other hand took after my grandfather who was a peasant and read maybe one book in his life. Nor was he handy. Everything he did was sloppy and just so. Needless to say I hated it when my dad would need my help. It could take him an hour to make a hole in the wall. It took me five seconds. Sadly, it still does.

24.05.2021. When you are young, you change your physical state by changing your environment. You go some place, you meet someone, and you feel different, better. When you are old, your physical state changes your environment, and since, in old age, you cannot rely on feeling good all the time, the world around you becomes changeable just because your faculties on any given day give a different interpretation of the same world around you. A good thing for the current times, but in the long perspective, – a wash.

25.05.2021. “He [Uncle Pio] possessed the six attributes for the adventurer–a memory for names and faces, with the aptitude of altering his own; the gift of tongues; inexhaustible invention; secrecy; the talent for falling into conversation with strangers; and that freedom from conscience that springs from a contempt for the dozing rich he prayed upon” (T. Wilder). Sadly, I possess none of these attributes. As an adventurer I suck!

26.05.2021. In light of the Lukashenko’s most recent act of …, I begin to understand my problem with Putin’s regime better. The problem is not the kind of regime it is – autocracy, but the wrong emphasis it exhibits. The emphasis is on ‘respectful’ relations ‘ensured by international law.’ This is the realm where Russia seeks superiority. This is what makes it compete with the United States. In fact, the American superiority would have been impossible, if it did not seek it in the realm of morality (democratic values) as well as economics and the military. Look at China. It could have claimed an economic and military superiority, but it would not be a sufficient condition for the overall superiority, for it is tied to the Communist ideology. When and only when Russia establishes itself as a moral leader, regardless of its economic status, it can enter the race for a ‘better’ nation. I shall write a letter to Putin. Dear Vlad, …

Actually, it is useless to write to him anything. Just as Wilder wrote, at some point an absolute ruler, feels like he is next to be God, and God you cannot persuade.

27.05.2021. There were some pictures taken from the meeting between Lukashenko and Putin. The Belorussian is standing behind (he is tall). Putin is at the front in white, white and blue jeans (that color combination looks horrible on him, perhaps more horrible than the Italian outfit he wore during his meeting with Berlusconi. Also, Sochi. The worst is the way he has his leg cocquetishly (sp?) raised, just like Maurice in the picture Holling took for the NASA wall of fame in Northern Exposure.

28.05.2021. Reading Wilder with his magical realism and the emphasis on mystical event reminded me that the most mystical in my life has been when one my mechanical watches would stop running and then when I put it away, thinking of replacing the battery, would start running again, showing correct time..me

29.05.2021. There should be only one head of the household. Otherwise, there will always be some chicken soup to throw away..

30.05.2021. I am truly bummed out,. Want to cry. After spending two hours yesterday reading and finishing The Bridge of San Lois Ray, I hoped for beautiful dreams that match a beautiful book. What do I see instead? Locks, dungeons, swamps, ruins, ripped pants, soiled underwear, screwdriver, broken bag, severed finger and a journey inside a well. What is it then that I SHALL be reading before going to sleep? A cookbook?

31.05.2021. May is over. It was very hot today. Unbearably so – the hottest day of the year. So far. Four showers could not make it more bearable. On such a day, I find it pleasant to just lay down and stare. It used to be that I could not rest that way. For that reason, I have also suffered during outings when my company wanted to just sit on the bench and stare. I wanted to read, to walk, to do something that is not staring. Now I can stare even in a closed space, for example, my room. I cannot say I am thinking about anything. I can say that I stare. I don’t have to lay down. I can sit just fine. Sit and stare. Weird. I presume that this new habit has something to do with my new sleeping pattern. Ultimately, when I cannot sleep, I stare inside myself. It is like staring inside the well which is filled with debris, garbage, broken things.

02.06.2021. I bought the diaries of John Cheever. I deem him an American classic and I loved his Falconer and short stories when I was young. It was of course a damper, that bit on him in Seinfeld, but still. Well, the first random page that I read had two moments: an ode to a beautiful man, a disparaging comment about the Italians, and a brief note about a 60 year old friend who was very proud that by the time she retired (her business has never been stated) she had slept with one thousand men. I cannot say that to be encouraging for the read.

04.06.2021. Northern Exposure has a funky character Adam. Quite unusual. By the way, I did remember how I came across this series: I interpreted it while working for WMNB-Boston in the early 1990s. It was not easy to render simultaneously. Fleishmann was the problem, but also Adam. Both spoke in a flowery and complicated way. Too correctly, too fancy was their discourse. Friends was a totally different matter, but my absolute favorite was Baywatch. My kind of challenge. The clients of WMNB were predominantly Jewish and old. On Baywatch they split into two camps. Old Jewish women used to call the station with the petition to remove Baywatch from the program. Old Jewish men could not have enough of it. It will not be correct to say ‘Go figure!’

05.06.2021. Luka has been very excited about his new purchase: a giant Lego batman. An abomination. He started his life in the Bordertown by tearing off Dumble D’Or’s leg. Now the poor man has to wear boring black pants to hide his wooden protrusion. The only good thing about it is that he can shoot from it. Laser bullets. Soon we will be relocating to the backyard to play Playmobil there. I need to make a ton of pics for the book. Nik will have to be excluded I am afraid. He is too colorful.

06.06.2021. I very much liked the faces of the Russian national hockey team: interesting faces. New faces. Few potato faces. I like the new generation of my people, although I only know Moscow, and Moscow has never been an etalon for the country.

07.06.2021. It was a gorgeous day: about 18 C, light breeze, not too sunny. it was so nice that Luka’s giant Lego Batman got undressed. He put on a sleeveless Eco shirt. Poor thing. Did he expect to be bullied by his friends Thanos and Hulk? Well, he was. They called him a bad name that indicated an non-traditional (what is traditional these days?) sexual orientation. Embarrassed, Batman caved in and put back on his bulletproof armor. Sad, really.

08.06.2021. We watch Elementary in the evening and Northern Exposure in the afternoon when we exercise with the kids. Interestingly, the two shows play off each other nicely. While NE has a slant toward a small place in the boonies and is essentially (culturally) Jewish American (lead), Elementary is all urban (NYC) and essentially British. The lead characters also offer a similar type of discourse: high flown. The kids do not differentiate. They would rather watch Modern Family or Superstore, but quality watching must be maintained. Khi-khi.

09.06.2021. The Downers screwed up royally: they went on a whim with measurements (yeap, exactly that-on a whim, deploying the rule of the thumb instead of deploying a ruler!) and overdid the wall by about thirty centimeters. Very upsetting. Doesn’t look like we are going to have a conservatory in the front any time soon.

10.06.2021. For the first time in my recent dreaming experience I fought my enemies with a light saber (no doubt some residue from playing Lego stuck in the subconscious). My light saber was red and when I, being sure of my weapon’s superiority, tried to butter through my opponents chest, the light got limp, bent and diminished as if the light saber’s battery was out of charge. Out of exasperation I pressed the remaining red flicker to my enemy’s head and, oh, a welcome miracle, it went straight in. I woke up triumphant (actually quite tired).

11.06.2021. I started translating John Gardner’s fairy tales collected under Dragon, Dragon. What fun! Translation is not an easy thing for me, but this time, so playful the text is, I found my voice straight away. As always, I embelish (waht is it with my spelling today? Am I losing my touch?), and often feel guilty but not this time. This time I felt as if John was standing behind my back snickering at my clever twists and turns. I wish I saw such lovely ghosts more often.

12.06.2021. My mom was in the hospital (routine pain management), so I did not speak with her for ten days. In a sense it was a relief (she is old and that means self-centered and long-winded, boring), but in a sense I missed speaking Russian: I felt rusty. Sometimes, I speak my native tongue with myself or to myself when I walk outside. We live in small town. I am sure it gets noticed, but I pretend that it have an earphone: quite handy these gadgets are even for those who don’t owe them. I wonder if Tanja misses speaking German. She hardly has a choice these days: while Leon speaks it fluently, he does not volunteer and neither myself nor the lil-ones do it sufficiently well to enjoy a conversation in German.

13.06.2021. Our Sudanese neighbors (on the right) with an oil well down there in the desert came for their annual two months of vacation in a less sunny country where they own a house. Their arrival produced quite a cultural stir: we live in an enclave; it is very quiet here. With them around, lovely people I must add, it became lively. One thing they do is render their social activities in the driveway. They have a small army of relatives living in England it seems. They come to visit almost daily as extended families (there is never a single visitor, they always come in packs of five). They bring food (just that) and entertainment. So, before they make it to the house, they stand and talk in the driveway. Then, the adults go inside, and the children start playing in the driveway. Then, around 9pm, guests are going home, but before they drive away there is half hour of talking and laughing in the driveway. It drives our English neighbors nuts. For us, foreigners, it is just another cultural thing. We are just glad that we do not stick out as much.

14.06.2021. It i supremely hot. Here in South England the sun knows no mercy. Once out, it is out to burn. I get very depressed. Not just because I have never liked the sun, but also because I overdress. The English are all shorts. I am all jeans. I do not wear shorts. I have never worn them. I was painfully shy as a child, and despite prompts, bribes and threats I refused to wear shorts. For a long time I did not wear short-sleeved shirts either. Imagine a child, an a 30 plus day wearing long pants and a long sleeved-shirt. Well, over the ears, living in Southern Illinois help, I managed to overcome the shirt part, but not the shorts. Now it is not just shyness. Now it is a position. I do not want to give it to the sun that it forces me in this ridiculous outfit. I will persist.

16.06.2021. It was a strange day. I woke up very early on a sweaty dream–it is really hot around here. Back in my mind, I kept the football game (Russia-Finland) which I would not dare (read: wish) to watch at home but could watch at the gym (the game was abysmal, very disappointed, would not want to watch another one any time soon). A similar impression was produced by the Putin-Biden meeting. Blah. The workers were supposed to finish the conservatory (they did, for all practical purposes, they did). Today, it was supposed to start raining heavily, so I waited, but it started later. Actually, it is raining now at around 9pm. Tarkovsky’s Stalker was at the tide-breaker point, going into the analysis. Nik had a strangely unproblematic root canal procedure.George the music teacher had a birthday. People at the Embassy want a very detailed vitae. My tuna and salad was not as good: the tuna got overdone and the salad was all wilty (well not as wilty as it was yesterday when I by mistake washed it under hot water). The new episode of Elementary was kinda good. The serial killer was a convincing dude, but the story was a cliche. Reading was difficult: Golosovker’s myths are a challenge. Not a good night reading. I don’t know. A strange day that did not yield anything bad, yet in and by itself was promising. Back to the Russia-Finland game. It is as if the day was arranged, just like the game, by the gods who came as replacements of the real ones. As substitutes. Remember how in school we loved to have substitute teachers. Things would happen with subs. We could make them cry or they would speak their mind and stun us into a conversation. Nothing like that today was delivered by the substitute gods. They just played the baseline. Strange that I would yearn so much for something not just strange but something that is really strange. It is not always good, is it?

17.06.2021. I had a meeting with a neighbor. His name is Danny. My age. He lives across. He has a camper van and a dog. All three are kinda worn out and a bit trashy. He is a curious bee, but his curiosity is limited by his interests. He knows for example that we have children, that our construction does not seem to ever end and that we have cats. I know that his name is Danny, that his wife is sick and that his dog’s name is Harry but used to be Paris and that he adopted it from Greece (hence Paris). All that he told me when we met the first time. And then the same info he gave me the second time (mind: I did not tell him anything about us–he just knew). So, today, I meet him again on the way from the gym. I ask him how he is doing and he tells me that his wife is sick. I empathize but switch to the dog, who is sitting patiently next to him. So how is Harry or shall I call him Paris, I say. He answers, Actually it is Pari, not Paris. As in France. Not quite the same as Harry, I say, (thinking to myself that if it is probably Paris as in Ancient Greek Paris). Though it depends. If you are into roayls or, sorry, not any more. what is astounding about this conversation is that it is exactly the same as it was the first two times. Exactly. He speaks. I respond. I joke. It is not a deja vu. It is a repeat. Very depressing given my limited contacts and sociophobia.

18.06.2021. After my experience with Danny (above), I have decided to be a bit more social just to see if I would enjoy it. For my site of practice I decided on the gym. The gym is my most diverse social context. I started reacting to greetings with hooks for small talk, as in doing the English most favorite type of small talk, that is, discuss the weather and chuckle at little things that have happened during the day (read: driving, shopping, work, children). Since I don’t drive or shop or work (would not consider my academic fiddlings proper work for the audience) and children are not exactly the kind of topic young guys or old guys at the gym wish to discuss, it would be mostly weather and workout. For my subject I selected a somewhat retarded guy of about 25-26 (physically exhibiting these signs for me to make the presumption). He has tried to communicate with me before but I would typically avoid him. So, I reached out. Yeah, that is how I conceived it. I caught up with him in the locker room and brought up the weather (hot, hot) and spiced it with a complaint: adverse experience with the new gym shoes. Two lines into the ‘conversation’ I have realized that the guy does not care about my dribble. It was he who did not want to engage, not me. I got embarrassed because at that moment I have also realized that my choice of the subject was neither safe not well made because he is more and not less specific in his preferences, his world is more and not less complex in how he attends to people. It was a déjà vu all over again: in the past when I was young and stupid, I thought that a not so pretty girl would be easy to woo because she does not have much choice. I was made realize quite quickly that an ugly girl is pickier because she is less flexible, because her world is more constrained by her experiences, etc. etc. it was both arrogant and ultimately not very kind of me to think otherwise. I guess, it will be another year or two before I am going to test my social skills again.

20.06.2021. I had a strange offer today at Tesco Express, the only store in Hove where I physically shop these days. When I habitually settled at the clearance fridge in the back anticipating a great deal on some Atlantic cod the manager came up with a cart filled with more clearance items. She smiled: Prime Deals. I smiled back and mumbled something about me living for Tesco throw-aways. Well, she said, If you find something you like I will discount it for you. I think that I was so stunned at her offer that it took me half a mile to register it. Like, anything? Lamb cuts, rib steak, salmon? At the time, I only managed to squeeze out: It is very kind of you. In fact, it was not kind, it was forking great. The downside is that I will be too freaked out to meet her again. Shall I start shopping in Coop then?

21.06.2021. Nik got so excited that his schoolmate’s mother got Covid, that after Tanja administered a home Covid test upon which it was discovered that he din’t have it, the poor boy burst down in tears: He would have loved to stay home for ten days playing on his ipad. Oh, boy.

22.06.2021. My trip to London, one of very few recently, has confirmed what I began to sense years ago after I moved to England: I dislike the English capital. I dislike its drabness, its architectural mediocrity, its narrowness (crammedness) and most of all its arrogance in the face of cultivated specialness. The Russian Consulate which was the purpose of my visit reflected that the way the domesticated alien reflects the most grotesque features of its adopted nation. Located in an old building with two centuries of history, the Consulate has a massive iron cast fence and a massive door the Soviet style. But both are rugged and somehow shabby, as is the inside: chipped marble stairs, scratched copper plated rails, worn out carpet, soiled antique furniture. Shabby. It is but a facade. The security person who let me in did not speak Russian but his English was not great either. A tiny garden in front of the Consulate door could barely sit two. Inside there was space but the atmosphere was that of a regional OVIR. Four women in their thirties were presiding over the Consulate’s affairs with little interest in the clients but much interest in all the things bureaucratic. They commandered visitors around like generals commandered troops, making them nervous in the face of a potential mistake. Naturally, I had an argument and left with a sour taste in my mouth. It was the same taste I had when the Russian football team lost to the Dutch 4:1 a day earlier and Putin announced a publication of an article about WWII: so much pretense at greatness by way of mediocre efficacy. My people suck!

23.06.2021. Academics often take the general level of education for granted. Especially around here. We, foreigners, certainly have hyped up expectations about the English educational system. The English think the same. Yesterday, the PM announced that the UK will be–in no time–the world’s academic superpower. In any case, today, Tanja went for a haircut. The hairdresser asked her where she worked. Tanja said that she taught philosophy at the University of Sussex. Ah, said the woman (25 years old, single, no children) after a long pause, As in stones, right? Meaning–I kid you not–Harry Potter’s Philosopher Stone(s). When Tanja (begrudgingly) explained to her that stones had little to do with her vocation, the woman admitted that she was dyslexic and that it would take ‘hundreds of days’ for her to finish a book. This reminded me of an acquaintance of mine, who I met at the gym over here in Hove, where he worked as a fitness trainer. When to his question about my work I answered that I was a philologist, he drew a blank. I elaborated: languages, literature. He said, Languages I understand but what is literature? Ah, I said, Fiction? Fiction, he said pensively. I rushed to help: Books, George. Do you read books? Ah, books, he said with relief, Yes, so, you read books. I see. Yes, George, I read books. Do you?

24.06.2021. I was not sure at first if the character of Moriarty in Elementary worked both as a woman and as far as the actress was concerned. I have come to believe that the idea was solid. Yet, I would have wanted to see a different kind of woman. Still a lover, but a mature woman. By association with Lucy Lu who played one of Charlie’s Angels, I thought of Demi Moore: ‘I have never been good. I have always been great!’ I think Miller could have played a better Sherlock as well: more dependent, perhaps, but also more enthralled.

25.06.2021. During the Amazon Prime Day sale Leon bought himself an Alexa Eco Ball and a special light bulb. When he set them up the little ones spent the whole evening playing with Alexa: Alexa, turn the light green. Alexa, I want to go to sleep. Play rain. Alexa, wake Leon up at three in the morning. The next day Luka ran upstairs to invite Leon to play ping-pong with him. He knocked on the door, but nobody answered. I said: Leon must be busy. Luka screamed through the door: Leon, are you having s-e-x with Alexa?!!!

26.06.2021. Somehow along my life not so long time ago I managed to convince myself that I disliked ice-cream. The same happened with bread. Strangely so, for every time I taste either, I like it, but I never want more. In Boston, I lived on ham and cheese croissant from Au Bon Pain. In Germany, I ate chabatta every single day. German ice cream was my staple food for years. I guess, old age brings you to minimalism of some kind. As in travel, as in cinematic experience, shopping. A grey transition to the lesser land.

27.06.2021. As a parent, no matter how not outgoing you want to be, how much you do not want to communicate with other parents and in general not belong to Motherland, both other children and their parents catch up with you. Eventually. Take Henry, or Janu, for an example. Henry is a friend of Nik’s. He is the boy who knows what he does not want. He does not want pizza, sweets, juice, Disney Plus, ping pong, cats. The list is endless. At the same time, he is entirely lost as to what he actually wants. It is as if he grew up in the family of nihilists. This makes him look cool, but difficult to be with. He is as socially adapt as he is socially deprived. Janu is a friend of Luka’s. He comes from a South African family. He also lives by prohibition, growing up in a family of Christian fundamentalists. When traveling on the bus with Luka the other day on the way to a birthday party, he chastised Luka (with poorly concealed approval from his father) for saying ‘Oh, God’ because one is not supposed to say God’s name in vain, especially if it sounds like swearing. Ironically, and I witnessed this inconsistency with Christian fundamentalists in the States a lot, this does not prevent him from justifying the need to cull and eat animals or be paranoid about Covid. Somehow, God does not come into play where murder is justified, if for a reason, and God is too busy regulating your world to simply protect your child. Somehow extremism invites illogism as if to believe is to accept inconsistency and self-contradiction.

28.06.2021. Sometimes, I feel like I can do something absolutely amazing. Like, I am meant to do it. Like, writing an amazing book or perform an act of absolute heroism. Like, in changing history. Like, in my biographer being befuddled: ‘How come?’ Most often however it is I who ask myself ‘How come?’ Why this sense of some singular contribution to the life of mankind? There are no objective reasons, no prerequisites. Yeah, there is a justifiable feeling of being special which was cultivated during my childhood, but all the subsequent life, is it not the dismantling of that pedestal? So, what is this sense that bothers me now and then? Is it about something latent or is it about something yet to come?

30.06.2021. The news: Putin announces that one off his favorite (three were named) pieces of literature is ‘Kolobok,’ a folk or fairy tale (intended for the children under five-years old) about a smart round bread who escaped a series of dangerous trials and fooled first the humans, bear, and the wolf, but fell victim of the cunning fox. If the President of a nuclear superpower meant to say that he was non-aligned first and foremost, what shall we be thinking about the ending? Shall he be saying that he is not to be fooled by the fox (the collective West)? I am at a loss. Another piece of news that involves my people is the victory of the Russian team at the World Robofootball Cup. Yeap, after the dismal defeat at the EUROS, we won with the robots. And, listen to this. In the finals, we played with Iran. Yeapapapadu!

01.07.2021. Luka’s philosophical comment over dinner: ‘Where there is ice, there is stone.’ My little elementarist.

02.07.2021. Last night I saw my first entirely black and white dream. I dreamed that I was guarding the perimeter. Something alien was behind the barbwired fence. I had a black German shepherd with me. I also had a stupid helmet and a small machine gun. MP3 by the looks of it. Maybe it was me thinking about the Zone too much recently, maybe it was a recent glimpse at The Sin City I had on Amazon Prime. Either way, it was somehow okay, not too scary.

03.07.2021. The last time I saw any football match from the beginning to end was in 2006 in Berlin shortly before Leon was born. We called him Leon because the mascot for the World Cup was the lion (I have a whole bunch of them saved. Leon has a big plush lion still siting on his shelves). Well, not just because of the 2006 World Cup that we called our first son Leon but also because of Luc Besson’s film Leon the Professional. We were so cheesy back then. In fact, our next son got the name Nikolai after the coolest Russian saint already because we were pretty embarrassed with our original selection process. I am sure Tanja remembers it differently. But the air was charged that summer in 2006: the Italians played the French in the finals. Remember the famous head butt? The Germans came in third, I think. Plus, Berlin is a very international city. The Brasilians, the Argentinians, the Europeans of all kind were out and about day and night. It was an event all right. Good times but the question remains: Did the child have to pay for it?

05.07.2021. It was very tedious to get out of a dream last night. As it often happens these days (nights) I dreamed about being stuck on a platform trying to get on the train home (I think it was home). After all the passengers got on and the conductor announced departure (in my father’s voice: All Aboard), I tried to get inside, opened a metal door, saw another one behind, opened it too, but only to see the third. The train started moving. I have realized a that point that the doors were too close to each other for me to hope that I could stay between them and not fall off and that there would not be the fourth and the fifth one, and so I jumped off. I woke up. it was 8am. I heard Leon leaving for school, stayed in bed for twenty more minutes, heard Tanja taking the little ones to school and only then, after catching a breath, I crawled out.

08.07.2021. As I was musing the way we named Leon, I have realized that it is more a ‘like son-like father ‘ type of a situation than I would wish to admit. I barely escaped being named Nikita for the reasons which are even more bizarre than the ones that motivated us to name Leon Leon. The story of me being named Alexander has long been a ‘party’ story. I would save it for a special occasion, for it is indeed as precious as the one about me trying to assassinate my baby sister. Shortly. I was born on April 17, 1964. My parents expected a girl (there was no ultrasound then). They even had a name–Larisa. A boy took them by surprise. They deliberated for a week. Then my father’s colleague told them that a friend of hers named her son after Nikita Kruscheuv and received a refrigerator. After some deliberations, my parents decided to write a letter to the General Secretary telling him that a baby boy will be named in his honor. Since people have already done that, they did not hope for a refrigerator. A washing machine would have been just fine, they thought. I was saved in a nick of time: as they were laboring over the letter, Kruscheuv got dismissed. I still shudder when I think that I would have been stuck with a stupid name of an exiled leader.

09.07.2012. You will ask: How come you were named Alexander then? Well, not as easy either. No, it was not that my parents admired Alexander-the-Great or thought that I was going to become a great poet like Alexander Pushkin. It was that I was born in Alexandria, Egypt, where my father was stationed as a military advisor. This fact was not for common knowledge. For the reasons that dealt with the Soviet System, the fact of my birth abroad could have hurt my father’s legend (he worked for the military intelligence). So, at the age of three months, my parents flew me to Moscow, where I got registered in a military hospital where my place of birth was falsified as Moscow, USSR and not Alexandria, Egypt. I found out that I was born in Egypt only when I was 22 and the KGB tried to recruit me. My handler wanted to impress me and pulled this fact out of my file. That file was started when I went to the USA for half a year abroad. But that is an entirely different story.

10.07.2021. One must look history in the eyes. What is is and not was or how it should have been? History does not know subjunctive. It is not moved by the past. This is exceedingly clear now in this a-historical times of ours.

12.07.2021. It was quite a night. The English were anticipating the Euros finals for a week, stocking up, passing on invitations, booking tables at sports pubs. At the same time, being English (football hooligans notwithstanding), they tried not to show their excitement, downplaying the event, while talking about it non-stop. I would get most of the talk in the gym. Close to the finals, talk shows would discuss the possibility and the need for a bank holiday the day after, schools would offer flexible morning hours, and some employers (my hairdresser) would hand the sing ‘Closed’ on Monday. As anticipated Monday was the quietest day of the year. After a dramatic loss, the English who, with few exceptions, watched the game from 8pm until 11:45pm, talked lowly, drove slowly, and in general stayed home. ‘We are mourning,’ said our music teacher, a lovely young gentleman who is cooler than I will ever be; he gave a very even-handed account of the vent and condemned the fans as if the 50 year-old was he and not I.

As for the game, we watched it all, although Tanja and myself managed to build some IKEA drawers in the second half right before the Italians equalized. After that, it all went to hell with the little ones. Leon and Luka were doing decent impressions of the Italian accent, imitating the team’s expansive way of communicating with each other, while Nik, the only one in the family, was rooting for the English, hoping that he bet on the right horse. Well, he didn’t but we didn’t know it until the very last kick. It was very exciting. I don’t remember screaming so much. I also do not remember passing on so many likes and dislikes when it comes to individual players. My favorite was the English goalie, less because of his skill and more because of his jumpy fiery personality. At the end, Luka had a meltdown, Nik held his grounds, Leon was still researching stats on his smartphone in my room. It was an event to remember. Unlike the English who will undoubtedly be scarred for years if not decades to come, we had it easy, just underslept a bit.

13.07.2021. Why do I find Pickford so extremely appealing? I wondered and concluded that he appears to be entirely consistent as an English twenty-odd year old who is as good in directing his team from the goal as he would be running around with a firecracker up his butt rooting for this very team. He is over the top the English way. There is a tinge of insanity in him. During both world wars he would be running first into the enemy midst with the bayonet ahung and be that very captain of the last schooner stuck in the shallows some tome in 1502 some place in West Virginia, trying to instill fear in the locals while being severely outnumbered. Some audacity, some gall in that boy/man that is somehow extremely appealing to me, a person who does not have these qualities but romanticizes them even at his venerable age.

14.07.2021. I have been dying to read something good, something new, anything but by or about Tarkovsky. But, in my mind, I saw myself reading more of Thornton Wilder. And so, I got one the books I have not read: Cabala. It was his first book, the intro told me. It was all right. It also told me that Wilder wrote Cabala when he was twenty two. Well, I am into genius, into prodigy, into the early riser, but do I want to know what an American twenty-two year old thought up about Europe, Rome, love and death? I don’t think so. I will have to search some more. For now, it is back to Brothers Karamazovs.

14.07.2021. I have been dying to read something good, something new, anything but by or about Tarkovsky. But, in my mind, I saw myself reading more of Thornton Wilder. And so, I got one the books I have not read: Cabala. It was his first book, the intro told me. It was all right. It also told me that Wilder wrote Cabala when he was twenty two. Well, I am into genius, into prodigy, into the early riser, but do I want to know what an American twenty-two year old thought up about Europe, Rome, love and death? I don’t think so. I will have to search some more. For now, it is back to Brothers Karamazov.

I got vaccinated today. In the Brighton Centre. Totally anticlimactic. Except for Brothers Karamazov that I read for 15 min. while waiting for the jab to take in.

18.07.2021. We opened the swimming season here in Brighton. Finally. Altho only 15 plus in the sea, it was lovely, and felt like a real vacation, including ice cream on the beach, water melon, inflatable toys, and sun hats. Luka did a poor job applying sun cream tho: he likes to do things by himself these days. Later, when he showed up all red, like a gobster, as he put it, he explained his bad job by his conviction that he could ‘outrun the sun.’ Predictably, his night was not the smoothest. Being the fairest of them all, he looks like a cartoon character; huge red circles around his eyes.

19.07.2021. Today is the Freedom Day in GB. Holding my breath.

31.07.2021. I have caught myself at taking pleasure in exercising my like/not like choice in an unexpected way, with the photos that Microsoft gives me when I open windows. I even feel righteous (occasionally) when I say No Fan. Usually, the No Fan response comes when Microsoft gives me the picture of a city, that is, urban landscape, or the picture of some everyday pond, mountains, animals, flowers. Not a fan.

01.08.2021. It has been difficult to write: my head is filled with media garbage. In my family ‘garbage’ is a code word. The little ones commonly watch garbage ( as we tell them) when they play on their devices with ‘stupid youtubers” (as we call them) commenting on minecraft gaming in the back. The Olympics of course produces the most trash: watching actual events, counting medals, getting emotional, reading up on controversies, arguing with commentators, hating the hateful people, wondering about what happened to countries like Poland, Turkey and Belorus, which, although on different sides religiously, politically and ideologically, showed dismal results. Watching the BBC coverage was not unpleasant: the Brits do not seem to try hard with showing neutrality. Too polite to bash. Yesterday at the gym I heard two teenagers addressing each other as ‘sir.’ I was stunned. The kids got interested as well. For a while at least. Enough so to watch gymnastics, but not enough to sit through my explaining the ROC label. Then Lulu gave birth to a kitten. It was a significant event in itself. Made us anxious (Lulu did not appear to have makings of a good mother, but she is pulling it through or rather Mother Nature is pulling her through) and agitated (well, the little ones were quite screamy). One more form of life around is joy and…more garbage. Now my sister wants to make up, and I am not sure I am up for it, but will be kind and accept her apology if she offers one. Memory garbage. And all this time The Elementary and Loki keep on throwing images in that garbage bin that I call my head. The action either takes place in Cosmic Garbage (Loki) or deals with human garbage (Elementary). Earlier, on July 21 (I missremembered the date so I am doomed to remember it now-garbage), there was a stressful trip to East Croydon. I needed to surrender my biometrics to the Home Office. I had a an upset with a middle age black woman working there. Totally my type of upset. I am glad I am not living in that dump. The weather is also garbage: rain/no rain/rain/no rain. To add insult to injury, our garbage was not collected a couple of days ago: we started throwing bricks from the unfinished construction site (garbage) in the bin and got blacklisted by the workers. And that is a perfect metaphor for the mood. And the question is: How am I going to get rid of this garbage?

2.08.2021. I have been trying to justify my not liking nature, as in going to see natural beauties or oddities or grandiose natural ‘things,’ be it waterfalls or mountain ranges or other inhuman elements. My sister is a sucker for those. She would pay through the nose to go to Antarctica or Iceland or Sakhalin. None can pay me enough for traveling to a shithole like Altai just to see some ‘stone mushrooms.’ I am interested in a human being, and this includes myself, over any other life form, least so inanimate landscape. Perhaps it is a loss, but it feels like a waste. Pretty garbage.

03.08.2021. In light of the ‘garbage’ theme, I wonder what it is that the Olympic walkers (50K) think about when they walk. With running, it is mostly about yourself, your body, your performance (the way it is described by the athletes), but walking is an invitation to thinking, is it not? Shukshin’s ‘Chudik,’ does it not describe the walking thinking man, Grisha? In any case, do they think mundane thoughts then? What to bring to their families from Tokyo? There is this Swedish volley ball player who winked at me, maybe she likes me? No? Philosophical thoughts then? Berdjayev’s idea of the divine truth, does it apply to my feet? God, they ache, but then again, those trainers have been problematic to begin with. Isn’t it the full moon today? I love B.B. King…

04.08.2021. When Tarkovsky went to London to work on his Boris Godunov, he described the English as the people with an innate sense of style that precludes diversity.

05.08.2021. I want to make a correction to what I said earlier about BBC and the so-called neutrality of the British reporting about the Olympics. It is the same ‘neutrality’ that I hated back then when I worked with the English in Boston as an interpreter. They say: we did dismally at the athletic events this time, but it is good because athletics is an international sport and all these other countries make it good for all. Make it good for all sounds very nice: politically correct and all-inclusive. But what about all these other countries? What other countries? Poland, Bulgaria, Turkey? These other barely noticeable countries which are ‘not like us,’ as the former Prime Minister Blair said at some point about Eastern Europe, do they really count or is it the PC mentality pays undue homage to them? The Proud Tower that stands crooked.

06.08.2021. Watching the Olympic women’s football final was painful. Don’t ask.

07.08.2021. Actually, do ask. When I lived in the States, I dated a soccer mom. She was a bad date: often unavailable driving her van with the girls to a practice three times per week. So, now that I see the quality of womens football at its highest, I wonder if I did not suffer or was deprived of her company in vain.

I am so glad this stinking Olympics is over. It was all very painful and highly distracting. My favorite event was the German equestrian disqualification. I would have also hit the horse, but I would have not cried. A German woman crying under pressure–too common a sight in academia. I guess in sports as well.

08.08.2021. When the kids told me that Wonder Vision (Marvel series) is fun, I got so excited that gladly added another half hour to the evening watching routine. After I saw the pilot, I was highly disappointed. The idea seemed perfect–to imitate the style of the fifties sitcom, capture the talk and the atmosphere (which was a success), but it was not meant to be a copy. It was meant to be a parody. Bringing it too close to the original stole its pertinence. It was not funny. Yet, with the second episode, I have realized that the makers meant to bring the series up to speed gradually. The slow addition of color was the right sign for the upcoming change. Very clever.

09.08.2021. I should institute a thinking day. Like, Friday a thinking day. no writing, no reading, just walking, sitting, eating, exercising – thinking.

10.08.2021. In my family there was a particular kind of rhetoric implanted by my mother – the rhetoric of self-sacrifice. As a result, even the most justifiable selfish actions had to be rephrased to be sold to the family: we children could not have things just for ourselves but had to share them with others. Even now, my sister tells me that she adopted a baby for my mom (to make her happy)?!! My mother tells me that she has to, must go to a sanatorium because she is gravely ill (and not because she likes it there). If my mother lays down, it is because she is aching all over and not because she likes to spend half an hour on the sofa with a book. This kind of rhetoric is tiresome to maintain and is a cause of many a conflict, for, eventually, selfish reasons could be explained only by ‘because I want to’ and not by ‘because it makes us all happy.’ Sounds like one of those gazeta.ru editorials.

Looks like a swimming day. I will combine it with the thinking day!

11.08.2021. There has been a distinct lack of creative work recently. Shall I write a poem? Make a placticin Ritter? Draw map of the garden and paint it? Write a ‘killer’ article? Just to massage the brain. It sounds squeaky. I can feel it rusting inside there.

13.08.2021. I don’t want what it is that my subconscious is trying to tell me but the dream I saw last night about driving my old Mazda 323 on the wall of an entertainment centre, parking it next to the escalator on the second floor, trying to bring it (drive it) down the stairs and then having to kill a guard with a car key, the message is not a reflection of the violence I saw on Elementary in the evening before, it must be a general disposition of sorts. With all this, I was lost (when driving) in the first place, I took the wrong turn, hence the wall and the many lights. Now that I am writing I remember that the centre was full of demonstrating (not shopping) people who were agitated by something, but what? Why does my subconscious insist playing this kind of cats and mice with me? Why making me wake up exhausted in the morning after all this anxiety it builds for me in my dreams. I want to outsmart it. I want to look in the window for half an hour before going to sleep or something. I cannot be taken hostage by the dark net of my head (khm, rhymes, go figure). A glass of warm milk perhaps?

14.08.2021. In The Karamazov Brothers Dostoyevsky wrote the following: A German scientist who spent time in Russia observed that if a Russian learnt man (usually someone without a formal education) would be given a map of the world, he would immediately return it corrected. Indeed, the the ‘we know better’ attitude flourishes with my people.

15.08.2021. It was mesmerizing when watching Kabul fall. Internally, there was so much talk about it that even the kids got the drift and managed to incorporate it into our Lego playing. As of now, Dumbledore (me) was evacuated by the Ewoks (Luka) in the face of the Mandalor (Leon) advancement. Dart Vader (Nik) tried to negotiate with the Mandalors but failed. They are fanatics, he said. Other attempts to stop the radicals (Mandalors) failed. Being reasonable failed. Being sly failed. It was a thorough failure and a joy to play. It also made more sense than most of our stories.

16.08.2021. One of the criticisms of Tarkovsky’s Sacrifice was the scene of panic in the streets of the capital. It was said that his extras were moving too erratically, running in all direction instead of running with a purpose. The scene appeared to be too staged. I think that Tarkovsky was correct in presenting a panic. Looking at the footage of the running Afghans in the streets of Kabul made me believe that this is how panic should manifest itself: running without a purpose in all directions.

17.08.2021. We continued to play ‘evacuation from the Border Town’ today. Luka was true to the pics he saw on TV. His evacuation ship could not handle The Giant and so he fell on the town destroying the Dumbledore Tower.

I watched the Sky News (ongoing report about the Afghanistan crisis) and was disgusted by the quality of ‘experts.’ Pathetic. Trivial. Utterly Blah.

19.08.2021. Luka, when he saw photos of the Talibs, asked me ‘Are they the pirates of the Caribbean’? In fact, they do look like Johnny Depp’s look alikes, especially on account of their gaunt facials and the made up ‘eyes.’ Apparently, the dark around their eyes protect them from bad spirits. I think that they are rather wanna be Jack Sparrows but with machine guns; their strangely intensely vacant expression does match that of Jack, and although they are not looking for some golden compass they are there for gold by and large. An advisor to the Chechen leader Kadyrov said that the Talibs were ‘pretty boys.’ Well, take it from someone who knows. The Chechens are hardly pretty boys. Mostly mean boys with machine guns. These are indeed Abdulahs from The White Sun of the Desert. I think these bandits think that they are in some film. Thank you, America, for showing them the way to act out their homicidal aggression properly in good style!

20.08.2021. Relatedly, I noted and was secretly pleased to hear that Afghan interpreters have to be evacuated from Kabul. But why is interpreter the only profession that is associated with collaboration? Why not teachers and educators in general. Aren’t they the ones who are more responsible for transmitting alien values? A pretty superfluous view of the intercultural attache. Interpreters and their families first.

24.08.2021. In an attempt to conquer bad dreams that come to bother me with a shocking regularity I thought that I would start reading some fuzzy children’s lit before going to sleep. Say, Winnie-the-Pooh or Alice in Wonderland. Despite that we have two copies of each, I could not find any. So I grabbed (it was getting late: the kids go to bed at around 9:30) Beatrix Potter. Yeah. What can I say? The last book I read before I started The Tale of Jeremy Fisher was The Karamazov Brothers. Reading about a frog who went fishing and almost got himself killed after reading about Dmitry’s trial was like spiraling down from ten thousand feet. They say that when it happens fear freezes your brain. It was not fear that froze my brain, but since it is still froze, I cannot say exactly what it was that did this to me.

25.08.2021. The English do not know how to meet strangers. Small time, provincial attitude. Village mentality. No diversity and no curiosity about the stranger.

26.08.2021. I was forced to watch paraolympics. It was not an ode to the human spirit. It was very sad and heart-breaking. It was also, shame on me, very very boring. You could hear the strain in commentators voices. Short of saying something like ‘isn’t it amazing, a person with this ailment, look, they managed to…the commentators were struggling to identify a feature they, able people, could properly admire. Wow was not a part of their discourse. It was a meticulous and tedious presentation of the direction with an occasional aside in the direction of the ‘special rules.’

Unfortunately, appearances do matter. It is hard to celebrate not just a broken body that did well for the spirit that inhabits it, but to embrace a body that is not well kept generally (bad skin, bad hair, bad teeth) is particularly hard.

27.08.2021. Nothing has fallen so quickly and so spectacularly in the modern history to the enemy within as did Afghanistan. In a sense, it repeated the fall of the Soviet Union 30 years ago that too fell in the hands of all kinds and of nationalists, extremists, bandits. Bandits. I remember those times of Bachanalia and Shabash. A fast degradation of morality and as fast a decrepitude of spirit.

01.09.2021. How much I hated September 1 which is the beginning of school in Russia. Unlike my sister who was dying to get in to rally her friends around her to tell them her summer stories and bask in their attention, the very thought of putting on the brand new uniform, new crispy and uncomfortable shoes, tie up that new young pioneer tie made me cringe. But even more so, I was anxious to be in the same class with a bunch local bullies and away from the rugby crowd who protected me. It was a day to fear.

02.09.2021. Desperate for a swimming opportunity, I went to swim in 15 degree water, with strong winds and no sun (very common around here) over the last weekend for three days in a row and predictably got sick. So sick in fact that I could not focus on writing about things that mattered and bothered me, the things that I dreamed so vividly about that I wondered if they were not premonitions. I felt like I was in a cloud but with my ears ringing. Like in an Avengers film. Incidentally, Marvel films were what Leon and myself were watching when Tanja and the little ones were Germany. Their absence added to the experience of white noise. Laying around and staring was the predominant mode. Sitting on a cloud and staring into nowhere.

As for the films, such as Guardian of the Galaxies and the Infinity Wars, etc., I had to make a shameful admission to Leon in the locker room of the gym (Hove Squash and Fitness) where both if us go: I like Thanos the best. He is a very attractive villain. I wish our Lego figurine had the glove with the stones. Other than that.

03.09.2021. Luka coined the new word and a new world event: Uglympics. It is a world competition for the people who are ugly. Of course, I have lectured him on the inappropriateness of the term, but the idea stuck to me. It would have given–the Uglympics–an opportunity to the people with ‘special’ appearances to express themselves on the level that would solicit admiration and envy from the norms…I think I am digging myself in deeper and deeper. Something is wrong with me. I should stop.

How do you call a person who expresses gratitude only for the things that you do for them at their request but not for the things that you do spontaneously pursuing your own vision of how you can please them? No, I am not talking about the English. My mother is always unpleasantly surprised when I give her a thing I think she needs of likes: ‘I already have a pair of black winter boots.’ ‘This chocolate you can buy in Russia as well…’

04.09.2021. My Lego character (yes, still Dumbledore aka Dumble D’or) is as obsessed with a certain part of his wardrobe as myself. If it is shoes for me, for Dumbledore it is pants. He has quite a collection in his lab. Most of them are maroon with the golden trim. Some of them are techno, others are fancy shmancy art deco (khm). At some point Iron Man donated a pair. Those can fly. I have not tried them yet.

05.09.2021. I was accused of being insensitive toward people with various defects, of putting the less fortunate down, of advancing my own normality. I have accepted the accusation as valid–mostly along the lines of being unduly judgmental and petty–and decided to diminish. I will hold off writing more notes until I find a new voice.

19.09.2021. It has been two weeks. It is no longer penance, it is pouting, so I shall be breaking out of my slump, albeit very slow;y. Recently, Tanja suggested that we ran a test of comprehensibility with Alexa. Yes, there have been occasions when Alexa did not seem to react to Tanja as fast as she did to me. As a result of our extended five-minute test (basically, exposing Alexa to the same commands), it did become clear that the robot preferred the male voice and the Russian accent to the female voice and the German accent. A bit of a female she is after all, isn’t she?

20.09.2021. Yesterday, I sat down on Grogu. Grogu is the kitten that Lulu produced about a month ago. Like his namesake from The Mandalorian, Grogu does not have special powers, but like the ‘real’ Grogu, he proved to be virtually indestructable. It was dark in the conservatory (we were watching Elementary on the big screen), and Luka just got up to let me sit down. When I landed my butt on the poor thing, it felt like I sat down on Nik’s giant squeeze ball, except that the ball screamed (well, more like squealed) bloody murder. I almost had a heart attack when I realized that I actually sat down on the kitten. I was sure I popped it like a frog. But he was fine this morning. A bit flatter perhaps but in good spirits nonetheless. I wonder what would have happened if I stepped on her?

21.09.2021. A habitual of disturbing dreams that betray all kinds of anxieties, I was not surprised to see one last night, several days before my departure to Russia. But this one was a different one. I would have expected my anxiety about the trip to transpire in a familial setting: train station, a chase. This dream has a super store as a setting, and I was the one who was shoplifting in the store. Tanja and the kids were there as well, but a different area: I got separated early on and did not see them before the end of the dream, which was me walking through the door detector. It was some of the detail that made me remember the dream very vividly throughout the day, affecting my mood. For one, there were two young female store assistants who put me up for filling up a very expensive leather bag with a broken zipper with designer scarfs and linen. They were not erotically given: both were made intentionally unattractive by my subconscious. These two women were following me everywhere. They were the ones who brought me to a boutique in the same mall. There, a woman in her early sixties with high hair, who I think I know in reality, told me about some of the items on her store. She remembered me from my last visit during which I bought a bronze whistle. This time she showed me her collection of books. All of them were supremely old, – the binding and all indicated hundreds of years old, just like the books Polanski showed us in The Ninth Gate. These books were only a dollar each. My bag was full of useless crap, so I could only buy one. As I was regretting not to have a bigger bag, the woman came up to me and asked me to open my bag. Apparently, someone stole a pair of womens boots worth 40 thousand dollars. She frisked my bag but did not find any boots and did not pay heed to the overabundance of kerchiefs. One last detail: when I was walking out of her store, I felt a tiny pinch in my finger. When I looked at it, I saw a silver hook on a silver line with a silver sinker in the shape of a tank that pierced the skin of my finger and was hanging out of it. I thought to myself, It is a Sherman tank. Immediately after, I saw a badly damaged book. The cover of the book said: The History of the Greatest Tank of the War.

24.09.2021. My Guardian Angel is watching over me. The last few days were precarious. I was especially perturbed by locking myself out at the gym (left the key in the bag that I locked inside the locker with a padlock), for I was sure that I did not have a spare key. Well, I found the key straight away in an odd box. There were other minor things that do happen a lot before a complicated event (read: my trip to Moscow). I hope my Angel does not need a Covid pass to cross the border. I would very much like to have it around where I will be. My mom will benefit from its company as well. I know she will. Or maybe her Guardian Angel and mine will have tea together.

25.09.2021. It has been so beautiful around here for the last week: sunny and dry, like a proper Indian Summer. For the first time, I am not anxious to travel. Actually, not the first time.

27.09.2021. Actually, none of the above was true. I wrote about my anxiety in the aftermath of the slowly dissipating stress over such things as the vaccination passport, Covid test and other unknowables of the pandemic times. In fact, I was calm and collected. That was new, and it helped. For a change. The trip was not only normal but more than normal: unlike the last two trips to Moscow which involved a Boeing 777 with only ten percent of taken seats, this time not just the plane but the bus to the airport and and the airport itself were super filled. Packed, stuffy, and smelly.

29.09.2021. There were also an inordinate number of archetypal characters on both sides, Russian and English. My people on the plane were fully represented. Embarrassingly so: a not so old woman who was speaking into the phone for an hour, while waiting for the gate to be announced in the common hall, on the way to the gate and in the line. She was so engaged that even the ever alert mask minder from Aeroflot never told her to put her mask on. She had that look. While she was talking on the phone other passengers including myself became privy to the most intimate details of her life. We have found out that she was from Chita (not surprising, – her Puma sweat suit gave her away straight away), that she had a daughter who was married to an English gentlemen name Charles and that Charles had a bad case of dermatitis. There was another representative of the Russian province, a burly middle aged man with thick hands and as thick a belly who chanced upon to sit with another man just like him. The two made friends straight away talking about #life# and pouring down Hennessy on which they spent a small fortune.

30.09.2021. At the airport, my sense of some Russian panopticum increased: cultural characters there were more weird and more aggressive. They were grotesque to the point of me wanting to stay and watch them longer than I otherwise would. I am sure I too looked weird to them. It was not traumatic, this encounter with the own, I even enjoyed this opportunity to gawk and snicker and think about all the things that will never make my nation great, such as, for example, the maddening slowness of walking men and women. Like, they are not going anywhere, like they and not returning from anywhere, like life is a promenade.

01.10.2021. The Russian TV is revolting. I’d rather listen to the radio, which is as bad, but without the visual, it is more bearable. So much stupid uneducated crap, a bunch of Rush Limbaud’s (sp.?) and an endless stream of efficacious discourse. The only #experts# who are able to say something interesting and say it well, sounding smart and knowledgeable, are either lawyers or economists. The worst is when they talk about God and soul. So very bad. My people have certainly degraded as humanists. I am saying this not because I am old and bitter (both are correct), but because I am deeply upset about my people’s backwardness. We are barely Europeans indeed.

I miss that fox that comes to our garden in Hove to forage. I miss her more than the cats. I dreamt about her last night. I was feeding her bacon.

02.10.2021. Strange how one’s missing turns into a fit of possession. I was at the flea-market today, the one called Vernisage, about 20 min. walking distance from my Moscow flat. The only thing I wanted to buy there was the hide of a fox. I was so ashamed of this transformation of my imaginary relationship with a fox that I bought a Japanese tea pot instead. The one that weighs a ton. An old woman who was selling her meager possessions let me buy it for a whooping sum of 4 pounds. She did not want to ask more because she lost the filter; she dropped it in the toilet and had to call a basurman (Central Asian person) to solve the problem. Needless to say, I was not sorry that I did not get that filter (seif).

03.10.2021. By the way, when I say ‘weird people,’ I mean that man on the rusty bicycle who was dressed in the emergency unit medical outfit (blue disposable pants and shirt), but did not have socks; he had broken glasses, and on his bicycle, taped to the back with a scotch tape there was a bottle of kefir. In a somewhat elite and expensive gym where I singed myself up after arrival (for location not because it was elite), there is a member who has boxer shorts and leather mocasins for his sports outfit. This would not be a problem if he did not burp and fart throughout. Not once, not twice, but every time he is there. Weird.

05.10.2021. I lost my Kyrgyz barber to the pandemic. After a few days I ventured out to a new place in Malakhovka. This time it was an Abkhaz, Rustam, who did my hair. When I saw myself in the mirror, I screamed. No doubt, he failed to notice that I am not twenty years old and cannot possibly be a student of the IPhC across the street. However, to be fair, when I got home, I washed my hair (at the dacha I have to heat water in a pot four times and then fill a small bathtub) and kinda liked it. I look like an old but well groomed dog, that is, like who I am.

06.10.2021. In Moscow I sleep in my father’s old (ancient) divan (couch). I take this sleeping arrangement as a symbol of my status here. I am in transit. When the divan is fully extended, it has a crevice in the middle. I feel like I am sleeping in a small fishing boat. When I put it together so that I sleep on one half only, it reminds me of a train bed. It is as short and as narrow. In both positions I dream only of crossing the river or finally getting to my train station. I complain. My father did not complain however. At 164 cm and 65 kg, he was by all counts, a small man.

05.11.2021. Perhaps one of the reasons I have been subdued with my notes…Funny, actually, you were not subdued, you didn’t write, Alex, or, to be more correct, Sasha. Okay, I didn’t write because my mood was (that inner sensor again is laughing at what is going to follow)… dark. Khm. Dark…One most recent example may clarify and shut that inner voice up. Finally. Yesterday, I saw a dream. I will describe it first and then offer an interpretation.

I slept very well that night. At the dacha. I woke up a few times, as is common these days, the last time at 7am. After some tossing and turning, I fell back to sleep. I woke up 9:30 with a jolt. I was disgusted and terrified. Here is my dream as I remembered it vividly and recorded it faithfully. The dream began in Germany in Wuppertal. Tanja and myself were invited to a party. I put on a dress shirt, a pair of jeans and a fancy TH blazer (Lulu just recently ruined it when trying to climb over it to the top of the wardrobe). I also had an expensive pair of dress shoes (yes, my shoe fetish). Tanja was wearing one her self-made silk scarfs (yeap, she makes her own clothes..).

At the party, I got drunk quickly and started provoking people (specifically, one fat woman Tanja used to have for a friend in England) who at some point chose to move from a long common table (you see them lots in German beer gardens) to a small round table. At some point we went to dance. I flirted with a large woman I know (my sister’s co-worker who hates me). She brushed me off and disappeared. Tanja got upset and left. I went outside to look for her and got lost. It was dark. I went to a different pub and saw a man who looked familiar. I came up to him, and we began to chat. He was short, muscular and dressed up like dancer in tight pants, tight black shirt and dress shoes. At some point, he leaned over to me and kissed me on the lips. I liked it but told him that I am straight and was about to leave. Before leaving I realized that I lost my jacket and began to look for it. Finally I found it. It was in the next room, which looked like it used to be or still was an industrial space: there were no machines but the windows and the lights were distinctly industrial.

In the room I saw a bag and put some stuff from the pile on the floor inside, took the bag and left. Among the things that I took there were paper key from some table game. I walked outside and found myself on campus of the Wuppertal Uni. It was darker than before or so it seemed (less lights). I was anxiously trying to remember how to get to Tanja’s parents’ house. I saw a brightly lit house (also a pub) and walked inside. I saw a woman selling small doughnuts first and got quite hungry. I asked her for four doughnuts. She told me that they cost four Euros. I looked in my pockets and my bag but did not find any Euros, only rubles and pesos. While I was looking for the money inside the bag, a man standing next to me saw the paper keys that I stole from my previous location. He whispered something to his friend and offered me two Euros for two keys. I agreed, we made an exchange and he laughed as if he has just fooled me big time. I looked around and saw many Russian-speaking students in the pub. I sat down next to one of them, a burly man who looked like John Goodman. I asked him about the downtown Wuppertal. He pointed out to a short dark-haired woman who, from his words, lived downtown. She could help me if I took off my shoes and danced with her. We began to dance, but then she disappeared. John Goodman was also gone. I began to look for my shoes, but they were gone as well. I put on some worn out shoes which were two sizes too large and walked out with a small bus in my hands.

The bus looked like a battery-operated car children use in the street, but smaller, about 50cm long and twenty cm tall. There were two buttons on the side: right and left. A yellow button in the middle most likely designated brakes. I quickly figured out how to control the bus and started riding it downhill. At some point, the asphalt turned into dirt, I pressed the yellow button, but the bus did not stop, and I crashed. When I got up, I felt a sting in my eye and found a tiny cockroach with many long antennas moving in different directions simultaneously. It was writhing in my fingers. I crushed it and woke up in absolute horror and disgust.

Of course, the dream was much more horrible to sleep through than to recount it. However, it lost its power rather quickly. Still, it stayed with me for the whole day, making me wonder. I understand the anxiety of getting lost quite well. It is not just the difficulties of the last two years with travel; the emotional, intellectual, and professional sense of being lost has become quite strong recently. The figure of Tanja is a historical one; she has been present for as long as I remember, with all the content thereof. The figures of her friend and my sister’s friend were indicative of my recent drive to revisit my past embarrassments. The homoerotic element always catches me by surprise. I wonder about its latent significance. Only later I have realized that the figure of the man is that of a fitness trainer in my gym. I like this man a lot and observe him closely whenever I can. He is very cool. Germany has always been a context filled with anxiety; both Wuppertal and Berlin were hard to get used to. The cockroaches brought it all together: it scared me shitless when I caught two in my hair in the old dacha (apparently the owner behind the wall let her half to a bunch of gypsies and they dealt in garbage; hence, the infestation). One of them, a big red one bit me in the head. I moved to the other house after that but the memory makes me imagine every night that something is crawling all over me. So, not at all a symbolic cockroach.

03.12.2021. Now it is only my mom who is battling the uglies.

04.12.2021. Luka called me Sherlock when he saw me sitting in my bed surrounded by three laptops (none of which work properly or are fully functional; hence, the number). In Elementary Sherlock has twelve screens in his living room. I am not sure I want to be associated with Sherlock or rather THAT Sherlock. Too neurotic for my taste.

05.12.2021. Gardner’s description of snowy light in Pennsylvania is amazing. Winter light. What a master. Reading Nickel Mountain.

07.12.2021. Last year I have noticed that my penis changed shape. It got crooked. It used to look like a rapier. Now it looks like a jatagan, or a pirate sword. Not a proper sable–too wide–but a Roman sword gone crooked. It retained the same girth and the same size but is looking at me rather than ahead. Must be age. I cannot say I was perturbed by this change, well, maybe a little bit, but I when I buy fresh cucumbers at Tesco, out of a weird sense of membership in some society of the crooks, I always reach for a crooked one.

08.12.2021. At the gym, they have a number of large-screen TVs. With subtitles but no sound. I have noticed that when I watch real people on TV without sound, they appear more naked, as it were, than if they had the speech for back-up. Only by seeing Adele’s interview w.o. sound, I could indeed say with certainty that she is supremely uncomfortable in this kind of situation. Yesterday, I watched a Nottingham player at a press conference. I swear: he spoke by moving only his lower jaw. It was obscene. Yeap, little pleasant insights.

Just a clarification (somehow needful): I do not identify with other vegetables on account of my penis. That is – I am loyal to the cucumber family.

9.12.2021. On the vile show I nonetheless watch at the gym – Dickinson’s Fair Deal – I saw a dealer who spoke only with the right side of her mouth. When she laughed, she turned into a prune. Very unsettling. She failed to buy a smutty drawing by Picasso, offering 90 pounds for it. The auction bought it for 600 (it was a fragment).

10.12.2021. Chronicle of a dream. I have not seen such bad dreams for a long time. In Russia dreams were murky. They were neither in color nor in good resolution. Not memorable. Here, in England, my dreams have been sweet. Except for the last night. Early in the morning I dreamt about going out with Tanja and the kids. The place resembled that of a park next to where I live in Moscow. It is a small park situated along the Scheulkovsky Schosse directly across the Institute of Physical Culture that trains athletes to become coaches and other (semi-medical sports profession). My sister went there to study. I used to train there as a child. There was a fair in the park (something that never happens). We were … Ooops, Miglena is here. To be continued.

11.12.2021. A group of men from the neighborhood came up to me. They were dressed up. Some were with their wives, who were made up and wore outdated Soviet style clothes. One of them gave me flirtatious (knowing) looks. The men seemed to know me and I faked knowing them (it in fact happened in my mom’s house three years ago). They invited me to come with them, but I explained that I was with my family and stayed behind. At the fair I saw a familiar face of a black man who was selling German souvenirs. It became dark. We were about to start getting ready to go home when my handy ringed. There was one of the neighbors who was calling to invite me over again. I again turned him down, but he did not hang and neither did I, thinking that one of us did, so I could hear him saying to his friends: ‘There is something weird about this Alex guy. We need to check him out.’

We went home, but then I said: ‘How about I go and get you some ice cream.’ I guess I was curious if I would meet the neighbors. I walked out of the building and found myself in an unfamiliar place. I reached inside my pockets to get a phone and found none. I did not have any keys either. I rushed home, but the building I entered was not my home. It was my sister’s. There was a blond woman standing in front of the elevator. I asked her if she saw a German family with three kids. She said she knows someone who knows where they are and invited me outside. It was dark and windy. She took me to the bench in the park and left. All the lights went out. I realized that I am in box, panicked and woke up.

So, here they are: my classical anxieties. Fear of settled men. Fear of getting lost. Fear of being abandoned and stranded. I should not have had this dream now: all is well, and I am happy. Then why? Is it a warning of some kind? I wonder.

13.12.2021. All this wondering. Last night, I dreamt of being sent in exile. The KGB wanted to know where I hid my books. They too were wondering. A very sticky dream. Lots of sweating.

I think I lost my readership (one person?) on account of the ‘cucumber’ mention. I thought I was sharing an important insight, but it turned out to be yet another way to show-off or not? All this self-doubt. wondering and self-doubting.

14.12.2021. Most of the time, when I walk or stare, I try not think of things rather than think of things. It feels as wasteful as shopping on Amazon, shopping not to buy things rather than the other way round.

15.12.2021. To heck with nasty dreams. No ticket is not a reason to wake up with a palpitating heart, not before Christmas anyway. Christmas has not always been fun. Now that I spent it with Tanja and the kids it is fun. But even three years ago, I would spend it with my mom. Just she and I. It was depressing to say the least. My mom tried of course, but she and I at the dacha in the dark, with no alcohol (well, that happened once – my mom forgot, I guess) and no company. It was very depressing. Now, the gifts and the food and multiple indulgences, but the thing I love the most is the Christmas lights (legitimate once, not like the ones I had all year round in Carbondale, ‘for ambiance’). The tree too. Now the tree is a proper reminder and a symbol of my life. It has an overabundance of toys which represent all the historically significant time periods of my life: my childhood Soviet made toys from the 1960s, the American funky toys I used to buy at Pier 1, the German wooden toys and the fine glass toys from the Chzek Rep. Tanja’s mom added pretty balls and my sister gave me a set of exquisite porcelain toys. I remember shipping the US toys to Russia and then bringing them to Germany and then to the UK. At some point, I and the boys made our own toys, and the schools contributed as well. Granted, with so much eclecticism the tree looks a bit weird, but alive somehow. Yet, there is no nostalgia there; just plenty of memories all hanging together.

18.12.2021. I dig Hopper. I really do. His melancholic vacuous palette. His buttery colors. His immense but short lived depth. I saw a girl last night. Tanja and I myself were going uphill to pick up the Lil’ ones from the karate, and I saw this girl standing at the bus stop (a pole in the pedestrian passage) under the dim lights (those yolky small lights too far from each other to cover a territory. An ode to localism, these lights. The girl was standing under one of these lights. She petit, unnatural blonde. She was short and very thin. She was wearing faux leather tights and high heels snubbies. She looked out of place standing at that stop in that outfit, and she knew it too. When we were passing by, she demonstratively looked away. When I was relatively far, I looked back and saw the girl just as Hopper would do her: a strange and lonely figure under the lonely light, with the same house over and over and over behind her. She may be read as embarrassed, and, as easily, annoyed or performing indifference; in other words, unaffected. All the same, I wanted to have her go to some hotspot in Brighton and have fun. I think that is what Hooper is about: his is still melancholia but of a sweet kind.

20.12.2021. For the second day in a row at the gym I see bits of Dr. Zhivago (the American one with Omar Sherif) on multiple screens there. First it was BBC2, today it was BBC4. For the English this horrible movie is a Christmas thing. At first, I could not understand how a film packed with desperation, fear, death and murder, rape and firing squads can be about Christmas. Shrek is about Christmas. Even Malefenta is about Christmas. But Dr. Zhivago? What is it, the overabundance of pretty fake snow or the revolutionary sailors running amock in that snow. Today, I found out why. On three differenet screens there was running The Road to Perdition, The Shashawnk Redemption, and The Mystic River. All that drama. So, the Englush actually got it right. Christmas is and has always been about drama. Not unlike Hoper, khm.

21.12.2021. It is sooo quiet here on Christmas. Of course, it is all residential, so why not, but it is extra quiet. Even passing cars are quieter. And churches are quiet. Stores are quiet as well. I guess it can be that way every day, but that would not be in the spirit of the holiday, would it?

In the Legoland, we have made some, actually numerous, adjustments. Dumbledore got into real estate and slave trade. Luka got himself two new characters. Both of them can fly: G-man and V-man. The first one stands for Golden man the latter for Vibranium man. Nik’s Dart Vader is a proper police chief now with his own vibranium police station capable to hold Hulk inside, and Leon is in charge of the Justice League. President Business, once the ever powerful villain was demoted to Banana King, that is a superficial position up on top of the Banana Kingdom where he brandishes his bananas at monkeys. As for action, it is still Thanos who brings most of it. But with a twist: we have the actual big Thanos and the mini Thanos. Remember Mini Me, the Mike Myers’ character from ‘I shagged…’ And of course we have a Christmas tree (with a ton of explosives under it–Thanos’ very special gift).

24.12.2021. There is a pet store on Nikitinskaja St. in Moscow. This is about fifteen min from my flat on Sirenevy. I would visit it now and then when I go to the bookstore or for a haircut with Meran. In that pet store they have a huge iguana lizard who never hides but sits and looks at you in the manner of buddha. He just stares at you and does not blink. Quite unsettling, but also draws you to him. Mesmerizing. He (he) also has an appropriate name: Kenzo (like in the Japanese parfume maker). It is on sale but none would buy it for something like 400 pounds. The last time I stopped by, some time in November, it was gone. I asked the seller if he found a home. No, she said, he found a job. It turns out he moved to a anima l theatre that just opened in Moscow not even a year ago. I felt so proud of Kenzo. Next time I am in Moscow I will go and see him perform. This too is a part of my social context.

25.12.2021. Tanja and myself were sitting in the conservatory on Christmas day. It was dark and it was pissing rain. On the right there was a set of lights from the X-mas tree. On the left from a Christmas rotating ball and in the front up the hill at the prime stop, there was a sea of lights all around the local brothel. It was as if this brothel was the House not of Ill Repute but the House of Santa (could be the same for some joy-riding clients, no doubt). Ordinarily, the brothel tries to hide (hard as it is for a mansion on top of the hill). At night, it is usually seen only by two small red lights (we are always in the know when it is open…so useful this info is for us, for me), but during the Christmas season it comes out of hiding and shows itself in all its raging glory. On Christmas it owns the town. Santa has never left. Merry Christmas, boys and girls. La-la-la-laaah-lal-la-la-la.

26.12.2021. December rain, still pissing down like it means to. In Moscow, it is minus 25 and snow sits up the knees.

I was perplexed about Tarkovsky’s fascination with dwarfs until I realized that cupid is not a boy but a dwarf.

I was grateful to my subconscience that it did frighten me on Christmas night. I dreamt mostly of the sea. There was only one scary image–I had a nose-full of hair. Like to braid it kind of hair. it was scary but even in a dream I realized that my subconscience was being cheeky.

2.1.2022.

3.1.2022. Writing backwards is as much fun as driving backwards. Looking back makes your neck hurt. Looking back is an unnatural position for a human body. One such ‘back to the Old Year’ story.

For the New Year Eve outing, we have decided to go to the Lego Store in Brighton. The occasion was to get some small building parts. For 7 pounds one could get a small cup and fill it with whatever pieces they have on offer in the back of the store. I love this thing. One can find rare building pieces but also spiders and frogs and plants. While we were there trying to decide on what each one of us thought he wanted (Luka-vibranium, Nik – brick-looking bricks, Leon – large pieces to build his Justice League Tower, me – knobs and windows and handles), an older gentleman, who was sitting on the ledge right across the drawers with parts, got in a conversation with us. He told us that he brought his grandson to the store, that he wanted him–as a New Year gift–buy himself 30 pounds worth of Lego and that the boy could not decide and kept on lingering, so his granddad put him on a timer – 20 minutes. Soon, we saw the boy himself; he brought a package and put it next too his grandfather. Then he grabbed the package that was already on the ledge and ran away to find another. While there, he asked his granddad how much time he had left and how much money. None of that would be worthwhile to report (despite granddad’s amusement) if the boy did not look like the sweetest and at the same time cartoonish character. He had a huge head full of curly hair and an open face with huge eyes and freckles. He would have made a perfect good child for Charlie an the chocolate factory. We were still there when he cam back with the last package. This package as well as the other two packages had the same kind of toy (Brickheadz), that is a figure (Dart Vader, Harry Potter) made of small blocks, but they are done in an explicitly caricaturish way. The thing was – the boy who was buying these items looked just like one of those figures he was buying. In other words, he was the clearest example of transference I have ever seen. He imitated himself, he was building the world in his own image. Synchronicity (the way I see it).

4.1.2022. Who would have thought that in the New Year I would still be running around in my underwear trying to make it on the plane in my dream. Empty halls with no employees, no signs. A proper fork-up of that very subconscience which I cannot even name properly, without misspelling.

Just read a big article in the news about Tarkovsky. None of that was interesting or correct, from the cynical point of view of course.

6.1.2022. On the second of January we had visitors–the first ones in three years. It was weird and stressful, but this note is not about that. One of the guests, a girlfriend of the music tutor for the kids, had a very strong parfume (Jimmy Choo), making the house smell like her in a matter of minutes. The cats got beserk. Myshkin wanted her like he never wanted Lulu. As for me, I began to think how women use parfume to claim things around them, not unlike the cats, smelling things and people up, killing off competition, as in Jimmy Choo killing off Chanel or Calvin Klein. So many possibilities. I think I knew of them intutively when I would stink up the SIUC#s Com Building with my Jazz or Obsession. Strangely, it did not help me much with my studies. I hardly win over a single professor. Academically, I mean.

10.1.2022. In the gym’s locker room today I overheard a conversation between two older gentlemen. I just walked in all sweaty. As usual I was overdressed: it was about 11 plus outside. One of the men was leaving. On his way out he said to the other guy: It is pretty chilly. Where have you been?, I thought. Are you even English? It is damn balmy. I am gonna brace myself, the other guy said, as he was grabbing his towel and went to the shower room. Only then it dawned on me that as it is common in this country, there was not hot water in the shower room. A minute later, the man returned all flushed and smily. Damn chilly! Feels good! So, I was wrong again: more English than English and not less. In the past, I heard the English complain about showers only when there was no water. No water at all.

13.01.2022. I began to watch snooker Masters in 2003 when I was in Belgium. I would have my salad with turkey hearts, smoke some, drink some and settle in front of a tiny TV which could get decent reception only for local Flemish channels and BBC. On BBC 2 there would show snooker. I would be glued to the screen. What was there not to like: it was quiet, even commentators whispered, colored balls would hit each other contemplatively, and I would try to figure the rules out. I knew billiards but snooker was more sophisticated, it seemed. I soon learnt all the names and had favorites. The cheeky Davis was my man. I liked Higgins and Williams. They were baggy and a bit sad, but played like demons. To make a long story short, yesterday in the gym (the only place where I watch TV), I saw some of it again. It was the very beginning of the broadcasting. I stayed on the machine longer and my first reaction was to laugh. I laughed. Nobody laughs at the gym. We all wear stone faces, pretending that nobody is around. I laughed because it was absurd, ridiculous. A pompous beginning with bombastic music and colors and the old players I liked and respected, by now very much retired silver haired bolding masters serving as commentators, spitting out common places and looking awkward in their Hugo Bosses look alike garments (black suits with gun metal colored shirts). It was a pageant that ended all pageants. The beginning of an end. The only thing that was still fun is to watch the last of the old guard beating the young and upcoming Chinese cohort. The skill, proficiency and grace were still there, still enjoyable to watch.

15.1.2022. Masters final today. What a crappy final. Anyway, now that I am about to leave for Russia, I have realized yet again that I will not miss TV. Any TV. I will be sitting at the dacha w.o. TV and w.o. Internet. I will be going to the library and haul back piles of books they do not want to keep.

16.01.2022. I am filling my suitcase with gifts for my mom. One of them are pills. My mother lives for pills. Literally and Ironically. She believes in them like some believe in Jesus. The ones I bring over are not even pills: Anadin, Vitamin C. In the morning at breakfast my mother and I take a couple of vitamin Cs and a big fish oil caplet. This is her way to affiliate with me. This and cooking.

18.01.2022. For her birthday, Tanja asked for a fish tank. As a family, we have already had one a medium one, 60l. or so. This one was compact – 28l. It was shaped as a cube and was explicitly decorative. It was ordered on Amazon and arrived as a set: fish tank, filter and lights (built into the lid). It was a perfect size for the beginners, which we were not. Not only the earlier experience was still with us, including two apocalypses (once I decided that the lovely pebbles from the Brighton beach would do and although I boiled the gravel for hours trying to get the salt out, I still managed to kill all my fresh water fishes in the course of an hour and once we had a house swap with a pescaphobian family from Germany who overfed the fish to death within a week) lots of minor accidents caused mainly by ignorance neglect, I was trained in all things aquatic by my father, who at some point of his life was an avid fish keeper. He learnt all his skills from his stepfather, who had several huge 100l. fish tanks in his communal two-room flat, specializing on breeding funky platies. Platies are the easiest fish to keep; they are also pretty dull, but as a child I admired them as well as the huge barak (wooden house), where my grandparents lived until I turned 8 or 9. My father on the other hand went all the way with his first and many subsequent 100l. fish tanks. We had all sorts of fish which we bought at Kalitnikovsky market, a hard to get to yet centrally located place the size of five football fields about half and hour by tram or marshrutka (khm) from the Tagansky metro station (purple line). It would take us under two hours to get there from Izmailovo (bus, subway, tram), which meant that we would have to transport fish under out jackets during winter. At that time, before the global warming, it was typically about minus ten minus twenty. TBC.

19.01.2022. The market was split into five parts: fish and everything aquatic, fish foods, including and mostly live ones (worms and water fleas-do not know their English names), amphibians (turtles, lizards), small animals (mice, rats, rabbits), cats and dogs, birds and finally exotics (monkeys, leopards, bear cubs). We would spend several hours wandering around first and then buying our fish food and new fish. Unlike his stepfather, who went about his fish breeding on a whim, my dad would surround himself with books (his main source of knowledge, unsurprisingly, for his mother was a librarian), so all he did was exclusively by the book. This approach has never taken in me; hence, my aversion (even now) of in-depth research. I prefer to wing it. We would clean the fish tank once a month (algae was pervasive) together (it wasn’t fun). When we had guppies, my dad would wake me up in the middle on the night for watching live birth. I did the same with my kids once. They were underwhelmed. We bread only guppies. My father wanted to breed a long tail one. I cared more about school fishes (danios) and pretty exotic ones. Liked barbuses and neons. That is what we decided to put in this new fish tank. Barbuses are playful and pretty. TBC.

20.01.2022. Older people like myself wear all sorts of funky things at the gym. Older guys tend to show up in extremely tight shorts, while there is a woman who spends half an hour on the treadmill wearing a long silk scarf (quite a hazard on account of many moving parts). I used to wear very long t-shirts that would cover my butt (no more). Younger guys tend to downplay their outfits, while middle age professionals sport expensive techno clothes. It is the same in Russia, unsurprisingly: human follies are universal.

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25.03.2022. I could not access WordPress while in Russia. Not clear why. Got back last night, exactly one month after the war began. I have prewritten a lot and will be filling in daily slots ahead of time.

26.03.2022. Leon shocked me and Tanja when he said – to the question if he was interested in the Japanese culture (his best friend is half Japanese and his other friend was born in Japan) – ‘I am not into anything unfamiliar.’ With this, he confirmed our sense of him, but at the same time, he subscribed to a life without adventure. On his own accord. Freely. This made me sad.

27.03.2022. Today is Luka’s birthday. The sweet boy turned 9. He has grown quite a bit, and overgrown hairdo wise. His favorite gift was the Sloth stuffed animal-pillow. Strange – myself, I have never been into stuffed animals. I was into little people. Oh, yeah, today, he and Nik performed in a Covid delayed show (two years in production), a funky musical after Dr. Seuss (never been into him either). They did a good job. Both of them. It is a pity that the inner politics of Stage Coach that caters to the newcomers and their parents made moved them to the background.

28.03.2022. Tarkovsky would have been very surprised to find out that his film Mirror is considered by the Russian propaganda as a war film, or rather an anti-war film. Moreover, he would have been amazed to see his film shown on Spas, the Russian Orthodox Christian channel, repeatedly.

29.03.2022. The ‘I love it’ rubric: ‘Research (Canadian, for sure) shows that regular meditations dull such emotions as shame, as well as the senses of guilt and responsibility.’ Oddly, I have always suspected that the Hinduism with its search for nirvana, is a shame-less religion. Leon, who studies RE as a major subject, could benefit from a report to that effect, but since he does not pay heed to my advice I doubt this report will ever materialize.

30.03.2022. The West failed to anticipate Putin not because he was ‘unpredictable’ and ‘hard to read,’ but because Western politicians did not read him. Literally. His speeches as well as articles did not fail to indicate that his emphasis on history was not about a hobby, but about its making. From day one, Putin saw himself a part of history. For better or for worse, what he is doing now is making history. One simply needs to accept it as a fact and adjust to him accordingly: respectfully and openly, yet, carefully. Then, history making could involve all and not just him.

31.03.2022. My sister, following her kind, believes that Putin is mad. I understand where this impression may come from. Known as a pragmatist, he lacks passion and is often described as calculative. Personally, I think that he is over-calculative, hyper-calculative in fact. If one wants to think of him as mad the question should be asked (with John Gardner): ‘What is mad? Was Homer mad?–raging against the other, bemoaning the very foundations of his world in the name of a vision of life never tried before nor since? Was Tecumseh mad, murdered because he refused to sell the Congress the air, the clouds, the sea, his very soul? What is madness after all, but overweening pride, the daring assertion, always mistaken, that Man is God–a high office otherwise left empty?’ (King’s Indian).

01.04.2022. I too wish that Putin were more charismatic and passionate. For the bearer of a Great Idea that he is, he appears too dry and subdued, even reticent. As an orator, he also lacks good improv skills and a good sense of humour.

02.04.2022. All that I have come to believe about the collective West, namely, that it is shallow, hypocritical, and self-serving, has played out in such double standards as the labels put on Putin: war criminal, butcher, murderer. There are calls to put him on trial for war crimes. The ones who call for that, why, why do they not see him sitting behind bars with Bush and Obama, Blair and Brown who collectively killed half a million of people in Iraq only and displaced 38 million people in the Middle East and Afghanistan in the course of the last twenty years? The carpet bombing of a single Iraqi city that killed 150 thousand civilians over two days and left over a hundred thousand wounded is forgotten by the so called international community why? Why all these US toadies like Poland are so eager to please the American boss, their new master? Where does it come from, this blindness, but not from the righteousness and privilege. The collective West does not have any moral right to speak of human rights.

03.04.2022. And the way they descended on the news about alleged Russian atrocities today, regurgitating them over and over again: BBC, CNN, Euro News, all these fast news agencies who forgot long ago how to do real journalism, preferring fake news, fake tears, fake blood, fake emotions. All these wanna-be reporters in their silly Press helmets telling stories about a girl who got reunited with her mother after two weeks of wandering some place in Western Ukraine. One-sided accounting without even an acknowledgment that there could be another perspective, not a single mention of the Nazis and their atrocities in Donbas, not even a feeble attempt to understand why and in the name of what the leader of a nuclear power is ready to sacrifice his own and world peace. Absolutely disgusting. As an example, after the Russian air strike on military gas reservoirs in Nikolajev (satellite town of Odessa) BBC reported about Russian air strikes on the port of Odessa. And again we see running civilians and hear the sirens and are shown people in distress. Yes, if anything, this war is gonna teach some people how never to trust the West.

04.04.2022. After many weeks of contempaltioj in the wake of the war, I have come to the conclusion that Putin’s ‘plan’ is not based on economic or even political concerns (although military ones are certainly in the picture). Putin’s hero’s, Peter the Great’s accomplishment was not only the forced ‘opening of the window’ into Europe in the wake of the Baltic wars with Sweden, but a consolidation of the nation. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian identity failed to accomplish its formation as homogenous. It has remained amorphous deeply and strongly tied to the liberal values of the West, its illusion of prosperity for all. Putin, through his ‘patriotic education’ attempted to overcome this impotence and failed. The war with Ukraine became a way to separate the nation and thus the people from the West, create the ‘other’ of the West and the ‘own’ from the ‘Home.’ Putin’s calculations presupposed the sanctionist response that would go as far as seeking Russia’s complete isolation from the West (but not from the world). But, anticipated Putin, despite the resistance of the West to see the world order rewrite, the country would not become just a rogue nation, but the bona fide other. The realization on the part of the Russian people that they are the other, the realization that this other has been long time constructed by the West via russofobia and the politics of exclusion will make a shortcut to the process of consolidation for the Russian identity. Only then will the country truly prosper. Less so economically, but as a sovereign nation governed by the Idea. We do not sell for sausage, as Putin said twenty years ago. For the country and its people to prosper means to exit the existing Anglo-Saxon system of dominance. Consolidation shall be done by way of isolation. Unification shall be accomplished by way of sacrifice, self-sacrifice. For thirty years I have seen the values I embraced so whole heartedly when I moved to the States become vacuous and self-exhausting, malicious in fact. Personally, I am glad we are leaving this cruiseship into nowhere. As for my own sacrifices, they have already been undertaken.

I have reread the last sentence and chuckled. Indeed, Alex, what is it exactly that you have sacrificed so far? Well, I did get carry away by my own pathos. I meant the discomforts of having the flight to London cancelled, the anxiety caused by the uncertainty of even getting a ticket, buying a ticket to turkey, having a cancellation, having a new one bought by Tanja, spending a day travelling, all that discomfort which could have been irritating if I were less patriotically-minded, but certainly very minor even petty sacrifice. Unlike my sister, I embraced the ‘historical moment’ for what it was worth–the ‘history in the making.’ Other than that, the biggest sacrifice was leaving ‘my people’ yet, at no point, I took my people over my family (I see, pathos is still with you, Alex ; ). Indeed, it is very hard to shed it. Even when Tanja and myself talk, and mind you, it is not easy for a German woman of her generation to talk to someone like myself, who is feverish from anxiety and grief and fear and God knows what and at the same time someone who feels liberated in the weirdest way, liberated from the Soviet and the post-Soviet baggage, someone who for the first time in years feels proud to be Russian, proud to be a part of some resistance yet, again, confused as to the actual nature of that resistance. I have to give it to my partner, she has done more than most people and more than I expected form her trying to understand my position and be tactful about not sliding into a fierce argument, for our opinions did not coincide on many issues, could not possibly coincide. This event is new to us and it tests us in most inconspicuous ways. It is for a reason that big politics resemble domestic interpersonal one. Made by people it cannot be otherwise. Motivated by emotions as much as it is motivated by ideas, it (man, I am getting carried away again!). Better stop for the night…

05.04.2022. I am so tired to dream about the war. Every night for the last six weeks I see burning tanks, dead soldiers, ruins and more ruins. Nonetheless, when I wake up, I reach for the computer and get more of the same. I have reduced my reading to morning briefings of the Russian MO, yet I feel like I have not properly woken up all day. My head is full of badness. I pray to God that the war ends, that we win, that we become We no matter sanctions, no matter pressure. I want Us to win.

07.04.2022. Actually, not just Us. I want the Idea to win. I had it all worked out before Putin vocalized it on March 16. This date, together with February 24, is as memorable as 9/11. I remember how I woke up early in the morning, opened my computer ahead of showing up in the kitchen (my mom would be asleep at 8am) and read the news. Then I streamed Putin’s announcement. When I walked to the kitchen half an hour later, I said to my mom (who just woke up): ‘Have you heard? It began.’ My mom is 82 years old, and is not particularly sharp, plus, in the morning, she is still dazed, but this time she understood my ‘it’ without asking for a clarification: ‘Did we invade Ukraine?’ From that day onwards, I felt like I entered something huge, something historical. My sister, who was driving from Pecheura (upper North) on that day, could not even get it. She did not hear the news, and I was speaking so much and so abstractly about the historical moment and the new beginning and did not mention the war even once that she thought that Putin died (she hopes). But there was no abstraction for me. The war made me feel scared, anxious and worried. I was scared and worried about myself, my family, my country, my people…And then, amidst the Russian military success of the first two weeks, there began to come sanctions, exclusions, exceptions, bans, etc., etc. Deep inside, I have worked out and justified my position by that time already, but it was the President’s Speech of March 16th that made it all very very clear. The words like ‘existential threat,’ ‘NATOs encroachment,’ the Nazi Regime in Kiev, ‘genocide of the Russian people in Donbas,’ ‘the malice from the US and its Satellites,’ ‘the Collective West, ‘the erosion of Europe and its values,’ ‘subjugation,’ ‘annihilation,’ ‘truth,’ ‘justice,’ and finally ‘our own way’ made perfect sense. This speech should have been addressed to the world community. Of course, I cannot help but ask myself if the price (I only mean lives, not sanctions or lost moneys and opportunities) is not too high. I hope not, for indeed I see a better and more dignified future for my people and my country. But I also want Us to win.

08.04.2022. Beware what you are wishing for. Wishing for news gave me the war. Wishing for war-free dreams brought up one of the most disturbing mosaic of images last night: my father naked in bed with a teenage lover; me, also naked, hiding from a person who resembled too closely the health reporter for BBC South, a naked couple of lovers who looked like two unrelated gym members. Eros and Mars seem to go hand in hand together.

09.04.2022. After the West announced its politics of cancellation for the Russian culture, I got up in arms and decided to watch only Russian films (Soviet war films, to spite them), listen only to Tchajkovsky and Shostakovich and read only Goncharov and Fonvizin. After an evening of Rakhmaninov, I have realized that I am not going to last long on this lean diet. It is great, this Russian culture of mine, but it would still be nice to read an occasional Melville and listen to Adele over a glass of Spanish Cava. I have gone soft, it seems.

11.04.2022. Kadyrov is like Andersen’s child screaming: ‘Look, the King is naked!’ Being as loyal as Kadyrov is, he would not be screaming about his King, ‘our dearest President,’ but the things that the King would not want to say, not yet, anyway. Most of his Kadyrov’s statements are bewilderingly simplistic and naïve, yet they reflect the natural attitude toward the war the best; hence his appeal to the Chechens to go and fight ‘demons’ in Ukraine. They also reflect the official plan. Whether it is his conviction that Kiev is going to be ‘cleansed’ sooner or later or if the biggest battle is days ahead tell the actual story that is yet to unfold. It is just that it indeed takes someone like him to blurt it all out. What a child this general is!

15.04.2022. I think Gardner with his Indian’s Tale inspired the makers of The Pirates. Dead pirates, a woman on board, the blind seer, Davy Jones’ Locker, the Isles of the Oblivion, etc. Or, more likely, the novella was written as a genre experiment, so it used the ‘pirate story’ in the same way the film used it.

I took the loss of the Russian war ship ‘Moskva’ personally: it felt like a personal tragedy, the loss of a loved one. It was a freaky feeling. it is only a ship, and I am not into anthropomorphizing hardware normally. I am getting too deep into this war. I need to stand my involvement down., or I will go nuts.

16.04.2022. My personal ‘stop-list’ (formerly ‘blacklist’), which includes people, persons (neighbor across the street at the dacha), celebrities (e.g., M. Freeman, M. Galkin), rivers (e.g., the Nile, the Missouri), politicians (e.g., Little Johnson, Fon der Lying, Zhopa Borelja-Borel’s Ass in Russian), countries (e.g., Poland, USA, Canada, Australia, the Baltic Swamps), companies (e.g., Reno, L’Occitane, Dannon), food items (e.g., ochra, orange, brown bread), dogs (e.g., Spitz), birds (e.g., seagull), toys (e.g., spinner), etc., etc. has recently been expanded to minerals. Now I prohibit jade to enter my personal space. Don’t ask. A hint perhaps? Must be something Chinese, something like an imitation of preciousness. The war has made the list grow by leaps and bounds: soon there will nothing but myself, and when madness sets in I will include myself in the list.

Started reading The Centaur by Updike. It was a rough beginning. Gardner is still too fresh with me, and he is so much lighter on his toes. This is a quote from his book that applies to Putin’s perspective on the ‘necessary losses’ and ‘sacrifice:’

17.04.2022. What a nice day! I was still in the shower when Tanja and the kids sang Happy Birthday to me. There were gifts and more gifts. Very sweet. The Russian MOD too has made me a nice present: I feel quite optimistic about the outcome of the war now that crucial numbers were announced. Once Mariupol is free, the advance on Donbas, Odessa and Kharkov will encircle the enemy’s Army and break the Unkranians. There will be celebrations and spoils. Obviously, after the sanctions, the Russians shouldnot care about the money as retributions. Land is the prize. The Nazis will pay with territory.

Putin’s should have read The Heart of Darkness before he started the war. Marlo’s vision of victory as imbedded in the alien and not home, as what always and necessary occurring from within, would be useful when justifying carpet bombing and the use of strategic aviation as an alternative. From within or fully over. A war is not a face-off. It is either ongoing subversion of full dominance. The one way is the Russian way, the US way is the other way. At this point in history. It used to be the other way round during the Cold War.

I love the smell of boiling rice. There is something very oriental in the smell. That is how a Chinese restaurant supposed to smell and not like burnt oil.

18.04.2022. Here is another evidence that Putin is motivated by history in his actions more than by anything else. From next school years, Russian school children will start learning history from year one. “Patriotic education must begin with the knowledge about the home in its generative dimension.” And the hymn that will preview the beginning of the school day (I would hate as a child).

19.04.2022. A lot of times Tanja obtains her info from general German sources faster than I obtain it from the Russian MOD, like today. Also, I hate all these innuendoes on the part of Lavrov, Shojgu, Peskov and the like: ‘at this phase we are not going to use nuclear weapons,’ ‘we are going to use new methods of warfare adapted to the new situation,’ ‘we will redirect our supply lines,’ etc. At what stage will you use them? What methods? Where are you going to redirect? This amount of ambiguity in these times is a weakness, not a strength. What was it that downed Moskva? Say it. Name names. Point fingers. Only the child general Kadyrov speaks out.

As for the times, I have decided to stop reading Updike. These times call for epic literature: Gilgamesh, Beowulf, The Knight in the Tiger Cape. Will be good to start with Beowulf and get back to Gardner afterwards.

20.04.2022. Fun news (once in a while): Canadian scientist (my favorite academic sect) had some comparative research done on the size of male penis in different nations (64 countries participated). The longest was determined to belong to Ecuadorians (14.5cm), the shortest to Cambodians (6.1cm). There was a disclaimer: the respondents were self-surveyed, so a few centimeters give or take was suspected to be added in certain cases. The Russians were excluded from the study on account of the war and them being aggressors. I take this mean that they have a humongous chunker that is beyonf comparison (khi-khi).

Occasionally, I am totally swept of my feet by the mere thought that once I was insanely young. Shockingly young. Effortless. Ethereal.

I truly hate conspiracy theories, but in this case, I do allow for unwelcome possibilities. Such as: What if Putin is really evil and his plan is to reach his goals by inflicting as much damage on the other as possible thereby making his country and his people suffer. What if he wants this war to be as long as possible: bombard the Unkranians while refugees are filling up the enemy Europe? What if he uses Ukranie as a testing ground for testing his Army and his weapons? What is he ‘does not want to occupy Ukraine’s territories,’ but simply wants to get what’s his? But the scariest scenario would be if he is convinced. Convinced about not winning but being right? What if he invaded Ukraine at the worst time agriculturally, thus creating the current food crisis (also on purpose)? What if he plans to secure Ukraninian Southern regions to blackmail the world foodwise? Maybe this is the weapon and not nukes at all? Questions. Sure, they can and should be asked. I however do not ask myself these questions because I don’t care. I have a purpose. I will still have it regardless of the outcome of this conflict.

Johnson reminds me of Kruscheuv. He is the English version of Kruscheuv (too much credit?): provoking, opportunistic and excessively into himself, an enthusiastic amateur, a bon vivant, a womanizer (yeah pretty sick thinking about Kruscheuv in that role, but he was!). Winging it, always winging it.

21.04.2022. Today when we were returning from a trip to Churchill Square, a crazy man began to shout at us. At first he did from a distance, then he came up closer still shouting. We got in the car and drove away without taking action. he was clearly not right. Yet, I took it as a bad omen. Things like that happened to me before, and bad things followed. I am not sure what this incident could signify. All I know is that it is a rupture in the order of things, and that I shall be alert.

Formerly I have written that my head is so full of war that I need to find help directing my feelings elsewhere, for example, literature. By way of association, I can achieve displacement. However, epic is not genre for this moment. It has to be something mystical (the above incident may be a reminder of that as well).

24.04.2022. Contrary to all promises to myself, I am reading not Tolstoy’s War and Peace, but Magic Mountain (Zauberberg-I love the sound of the original title!) by Thomas Mann. The experience is amazing. Just a few pages read but the sense of going through a singular experience is already there. To be in the presence of great literature is both awesome and inspiring. The same sense but in a nutshell can be given when one is standing not even a meter away from Rembrandt, Matisse, Breughel. Breathtaking. Good for Easter Sunday too!!

25.04.2022. Finally, at the gym, I managed to crack a successful joke. There is a young and very friendly assistant who likes to chat with me (I am not so inclined because I feel quite deficient – the English accent and speech patterns – mostly speed – are hard for me to discern). She also likes to vacuum. For that she uses a funny looking vacuum cleaner shaped as a red face with a black beret. They call it Henry here. It says Henry on the front. The assistant was struggling with Henry the other day. It kept on opening up, spilling the dust within (bagless VC). ‘Khm,’ I said loudly at the girl, ‘I have always suspected that Henry is a crackhead.’ Sadly, the girl did not laugh, and as usual in this sitution I got embarrassed. However, I knew better and did not pull Ross: I did not get into a long soliloquy about what my joke meant. Anyway, I will keep quiet next time.

26.04.2022. My head is so full of war that when I think about my work, I think about phases, the failure of Phase 1 (I planned to write two chapters in Moscow – most of the material was prewritten, ready to advance, in other words, but the plan had to be aborted due to the intervention of problematic materials – read diversion actions), the change of plans and the shift to Phase 2 (slow moving, yet precise hits on the problems around a particular area), feeling pressured and surrounded by hostile #references# (read foreign support). I am also constantly concerned about ‘being on schedule’ and ‘completion of all set tasks and missions.’ In other words, hopelessly mired in the war.

27.04.2022. I pray for the Russian soldiers every day. This is my way of participation. The practice reflects my position, but only in the ‘own’ sense. I am not religious, but I strongly believe that myoveralll disposition (not opinion) matters: it affects the course of events, and I contribute thereby. What is it? Historicity-in-action. A block of flats, – drained and frazzled by gunfire, – comes to mind. everything broken, not usable, a waste. Garbage. War creates waste, garbage. Quicker, in fact, than it took over in German reinforced trenches, as the art of a long and bloody long war. Catch-22 at best. But also miller and Aldrington. Fischer. Quicker, that is how long the Russia-Ukraine war should continue – not long or short but quicker. The world goes awire at the prospect of tediousness on account of waiting for a resolution. Mistakes of judgment are often made in this very atmosphere: foggy, opaque.

28.04.2022. I have watched a BBC report on the war while on the treadmill. I was held hostage by faulty machine: it gave me only channel to watch. Typically, I do not watch English news, BBC or other. Regrettably, I came out of that experience enraged and disappointed. The report was trivial, puerile, unbalanced. It had no worthwhile analysis, not even a one-sided one. Neutrality was a mere pretense. This war killed the journalism I would wish to partake in. Good bye, BBC, CNN, Guardian, Times, NYT and all that jazz. The Anglo-Saxons…Who would have thought..

29.04.2022. The smell of lilac around the house is bringing me back to my childhood. I grew up in the shadow (actually my home apartment building in Moscow cast the shadow, not the other way round) of the Great Kolesnikov lilac farm. It is restored to much of its glory now. At about this time, all its 127 sorts of lilac in over 500 tress spread around a five square kilometer park, produce the kind of smell that if you leave your windows overnight (not this year – too cold), it will give you a headache. Tourists come over from all over the world to smell different sorts. The lilac that is growing in our driveway has a melody of a smell. Something Rakhmaninov. Something rising over you. Makes you enfused with sensibility.

30.04.2022. Reading Magic Mountain. Hans Castorp, the protagonist, was described as anemic as a child. For this reason, following the convictions of his age, he was given a glass of port (05ml) every day after school from the age of eleven. Watching BBB (my name for BBC – bullshit, bullshit and more bullshit): a Ukranian retarded girl was shown. She was missing her father who was a Russian POW. Bad, bad Russians, by separating them from their parents, they do harm even on ‘special’ children.

H.C. Anderson’s fairy tales are proper horror stories. I have read The Red Shoes and was quite appalled by the scene with the henchman who chops off the little girl’s feet. Ok, vanity is bad thing, but to punish the little orphan than way? Perhaps, the Danish author shall be considered as the precursor to the horror genre? Will consult Todorov.

1.05.2022. When someone asks me over here what it is that I think about the war, I say: ‘It is a tragedy.’ I do not expose my position to the English because there is no point to discuss anything fruitfully if you do not share the same information, or have uneven access to it and are pre-judicial, as I am, at the moment of discussion. For example, how I can discuss the situation on AzovSteel with someone who is convinced that the Russians did not want to let the civilians out? It would be absurd to argue the point which is located in two dimensions simultaneously. The same is true when it comes to the reasons for the Russian invasion. However, sometimes I do indicate my position by adding: ‘It is a personal matter. I would rather not talk about it.’ Given how eager the English and those with them are to talk about the ‘Russian animals,’ it shall be clear that I do neither subscribe not only to this kind of voice, nor do I hold the same (dis)position as well.

In his fairy tale The Elf-World, H.C. Andersen describes the elves as stunningly beautiful in the front and absolutely hollow in the back. ‘Like a mask,’ he says. Kinda different than the way the morally superior and at the same time beautiful elves were presented in The Lord of the Rings. The hater of Russia, Tolkien presented the West exactly how it has presented itself to me all my life. Not anymore. I see what Andersen has seen: ‘and hollow in the back.’

02.05.2022. I should ease up with my rhetoric about the West. There is no need to turn my position into a persistently negative emotion. After all, my children and Tanja are the West. Need to adjust.

In Mann’s Magic Mountain, there is a description of two types of Russian patients at the sanatorium. One is the unapproachable aristocrat, the other is the vulgar sex hungry merchant who is staying with a lover. My impression of what the Russians at Davos are today (well, were yesterday) is pretty much the same: two types of the newly rich: the ones with manners, trying to fit in and the ones without any inhibitions, there to spend money and have good time the way they are used to have it at home.

Current news: BBB presented a little girl (another one) who spoke about her family in Russian as a Ukranian (caption: ‘speaks Ukranian’). It is that kind of ignorance that gets my gut going.

In Stokholm, Russian balalajka players set up a small protest meeting against ‘banning’ balalajka as a symbol of Russia.

03.05.2022. Everyone in the gym wears this or that poker face. Dissatisfied with my own ‘unfriendly’ poker face, I have shopped around and came up with a face modelled on Abramovitch’s slightly bemused slightly surprised expression he sports in all his photos. Given how im-personal people are around here, that is, they really avoid making personal comments, I will most likely never get their reaction to my face. Uhm.

05.05.2022. The day felt heavy today. Even a lovely trip to the Gardening Center (Tanja – more trips; the little ones – a water fountain; myself – water bottle forgotten by someone and fish food) did not relieve the tension. It was not just the kind of tension that comes around because of the interrupted sleep or for a meteodependent miserable bastards like myself from a change of barometric pressure. It had a bad omen in it. For this reason, although I am still not sure as to the omen, I treaded very carefully all day long. My steps were calculative beyond simple habit, and my speech was more carefully produced than usual (ironically, the latter resulted in more joking- go figure!). Well, the day is still young (and very bright I might add): let us see what it still has in the making.

06.05.2022. My favorite letter is Greek Omega. I see it as an invitation to transformational change. I wonder what imaginary friend would be best for me. I cannot relate to Putin, but I can relate to his ‘Idea.’ It was a bit embarrassing watching pics from the Met-Gala event. I barely know anyone (close to 90%). I am so out of touch with the new generation of actors and filmmakers, celebrities and business people (well, I did recognize Mask). There is a paper on Fink and Alice in wonderland. Something about paradoxical rationality.

07.05.2022. T. Mann writes in Magic Mountain that the Russians really, like no other nation, like to take rides (horse buggy). The most difficult thing for me in this current situation is to place myself in the context of the ‘historical moment.’ It is clear to me that we are living through it, but it is not clear as to how one should attach oneself, express oneself, act out. I think that depression as a medical condition has a strong cultural component. I would love to research it some more. Historically as well. Pushkin, as I have read in the book on the medicine of his times, suffered from the ‘black bile.’ Foucault could be the one to begin with.

What this war has also shown is that the Russians and the Ukranians are indeed brotherly. The Biblical Brothers. Pumelling each other. For so brutal to each other can be only be brothers. It is therefore to the best for them to separate from each other once and for all. This means that someone will have to budge. One way to position oneself in this new and coming world would be to accept that media formulates opinion and moves matter.

09.05.2022. Today, for the first time in my life I watched the Victory Day parade with a strange sense of sadness. I have often found it pompous and would be embarrassed for it before my foreign friends as a student, but I would always be impressed by the hardware and the handsome Russian men and women marching sooo beautifully (actually, not just Russian at the time of the Soviet Union). Today, I was sad looking at the men and women, tanks and rocket launchers. I have seen too many pictures recently of these very men and women being shot, tortured, dead. And the Russian tanks burnt to the crisp on the streets of Kharkov and Kiev did not leave much space for jubilation. Yet, I was proud. Sad and proud of my grandfathers and grandmothers who overcame. I will raise a toast to them and all those who perished in that horrible war.

As to the current war, my trip to the gym was truly marred by the BBB snickering and lying, lying and winking: ‘wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say no more, Putin, that bloodthirsty fashist, that mass murderer, the killer of babies. He has no clue as to what he is doing. He is insane. He is losing the war, but he is not getting it. He is desperate that he has become blind.’ The brave Ukranians, on the other hand, the indomitable Zelensky, they will be the victors, they will prevail. It was not even the usual BBB lies and snot (look at the Ukranian fighter jets, look at our heroes who are so staunch, so determined (so outgunned and so demoralized) and that little girl (she likes to be on TV, you can tell), even she is ready to fight), but the sheer hatred of Putin, and the Russians (by default), the complete dismissal of his position as a ‘fairy-tale’, ‘a deceitful narrative,’ an ‘ empty rhetoric.’ No attempt whatsoever to understand the other side, its argument, its position. Embarrassing and outrageous this West is. Indeed. Even the news about the absence of the air component of the parade was put in quotation mark. Like, they said ‘due to the weather,’ they said, as if it was also Putin’s lie, as if in fact he did not have enough planes (like a month ago, the same people said that he did not have enough precision rockets, enough tanks, enough men). Like ‘due to the weather’ was another ‘failure’ of the Russian military.

In the meantime, the Russians have destroyed close to one thousand Ukranian soldiers just today, shot down four helicopters and four fighter jets, burnt four ships and took two towns just today. It has not been mentioned ever that Kherson (an area the size of Austria) is under full Russian control in addition to Lugansk, and that the ‘failing Russians’ keep on bombarding the crap out of the biggest and most capable Ukranian army in Donbass and that, all things considered, fifteen percent of Ukranian territory in under full Russian control. What kind of wishful thinking is it? Is Zelensky, Johnson, Biden, Sholtz and their Polish jackals not insane to think that they can win this war, no matter what goals it pursues? I think they have less reason that Putin. Less right. Less truth. Plus, he is not just ‘Putin and his men.’ He is also me and a growing number of an already handsome majority of the Russian people who are tired and disgusted of Western hypocrisy and shiny wrappers: ‘wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say no more.’ At this point, I prefer pompous and crude, be it propaganda in the Russian media or in the Red Square. All the tasks set for this operation will be accomplished. I can bet my head on it.

10.05.2022. This war makes me want to throw up. I am pregnant with it. I hope I am gonna give birth sooon!!

11.05.2022. Is the child indeed self-alienated when he or she plays. What does it mean to be bifurcated that way? Is it dangerous? Can one lose themselves in play?

12.05.2022. We have got a fish tank. It is called The Cube. It is small: under 30 lit. Recently, I cleaned it and changed the plants 8plastic ones of course). In the wake of the change, some of the fish began to behave differnetly: formerly peaceful fish got aggressive, while the usual bullies went into hiding. I wonder if a drastic change of environment affects humans in the same way. That could explain wars.

13.05.2022. In the description of Hans’ Russian passion (Shushu or Claudia) in Magic Mountain Mann gives her ‘Kyrgyz eyes’ (meaning slightly oriental cut, a common feature of Russian women, the Tatar legacy and abruptness, which Mann presumes to be also a Russian trait. I think he is quite right. The latter feature can also account for what people often ascribe to the Russians as sincerity (positive account) and crudeness (negative account).

14.05.2022. For the reasons unknown I have developed a strong aversion to photographing which is particularly bad given that I am about to start taking pics for the Playmobil book.

In the Lego Land of ours there have been some significant changes: Dumbledore built more housing, while Luka is decidedly and committedly nomadic. Nik has his black structures for the police and Dart Vader expanded. My character gets into trouble with both Darth and Luka and spends every day in jail for disobedience. He hired more house help however: there is a fixer (handyman who works 24/7), a chef (compliments of Darth) and a doorman (currently Hagrid).

15.05.2022. I love my character. Dumbledore is a feisty old man. he is a cool dude. Recently he began to wear Harry Potter’s clothes (H.P. is in a perpetual servitude with Dumbledore’s family) and looks hippy in an appropriate age. He also tinkered with the Simpsons’ car and did a good job spiffing it up.

I am nothing like my character. I am bad with vehicles, I wear ridiculously unfitting – for the current context – clothes, and I don’t sport a gun (nor a magic wand). Dumbledore is very much my alter ego. He is also rich and magical. Granted, he cannot fly like Luka’s character ‘Luka,’ but he can transform, albeit not as well as Darth.

16.05.2022. When I examine the Russian news in contrast to the foreign news, I feel like the news are radically different style wise and cultural imagery wise, but the actual pics that accompany these news are pretty much the same: the same armored vehicle regardless who sits on top, the same family happy to be away from ‘all that’, the same image from above taken from the drones, the same burnt down tank, the same ruins.

They promised a scarlet moonrise tonight. I wonder if it is going to be a bad omen for the things Ukranian.

17.05.2022. My father was a ‘miniaturist.’ At some point I have argued about Tarkovsky being the same. Collecting stamps, shells, cactuses, coins.

In The Magic Mountain Mann calls the Germans ‘energetic and phlegmatic’ at the same time. He claims that their way of being is paradoxical and because of it often self-destructive.

18.05.2022. To be seduced, to allow oneself to be seduced is not a weakness, teaches Mann, but a sign of great power. His description of the budding romance between Claudia and Hans is so seductive that one can see the whole purpose of the book, its main import, in that relationship alone.

War and image. All that media is doing about the war the way I see it, literally, is trying to seduce you, tempt you to consort with the devil; hence, the religious import of the war.

The war of words as well: the surrender of Azov in Mariupol is called ‘evacuation’ by the Ukranians just as the war in Ukraine is called special military operation by the Russians. The desire to throw up is still with me.

20.05.2022. In response to the Russian wish to divorce themselves from the West, in Lego (as Luka calls our play hobby) I am setting up a Mushroom Land, where all rogue parties are going to assemble for ‘independent’ living. Of course, they are going to be armed and not dangerous. Perhaps giant trolls will patrol the Mushroom Land. Or a special petronium weapon would have to be developed. Time will show. We will see.

21.05.2022. It is quite sad but inevitable that the so-called liberal values in the West would dictate the rational behind actions, whether individual or collective, military or peaceful. The time of PR, Media, and Remoteness is also the time of Rhetoric. Rhetorical statements seem to be as much a commodity as actual bombardments.

The Russian MOD should construct a better picture of the enemy. The surrendered Ukranian Nazis from Azovstal did not look animalistic. They looked unsurprisingly like a lot of Russians would look like after a month underground. Despite their tattoos.

Mann introduces a new group of Russians who joined the ‘bad’ Russian table. They were young and hairy, argued a lot about a revolution here and a revolution there and apparently wore no underwear. The latter ‘fact’ is repeated over and over.

23.05.2022. In an extreme situation, all things big and small become pertinent.

Finally, Putin cracked a decent joke. Today during the photo session with Lukashenko, the latter said: ‘You know, Vladimir Valdimirovich, all we hear is Putin is to blame for this and for that. Putin, Putin, Putin’ to which the Russian President responded: ‘Well, I will need to have a serious talk with this Putin.’

After having been exposed to a continuous stream of the same faces in the media, my brain has exact imprints of the major players. I see them as ‘ghost’ faces on the carpet and the wall, but I also see their doubles. Fro example, today I saw a Stoltenberg in the gym and a Scholz at Tesco Express. The latter looked even more bedraggled than in real life. Putin or Zelensky look alikes are rare. In the Pokemon card deck they would be the exclusive cards with the power rating of 300 and more (no wonder Time magazine put both in the list of 100 most influential people in the world–no idea why Zelensky tho).

Being a scavenger that I am, I constantly dragged all sorts of stuff that I pick on the sidewalk: books, pottery, gadgets, toys (Luka’s favorite as of recently was a fully functional albeit a bit crooked battery operated lightsaber). Two days ago, Leon, who is too good for this kind of past time returned from his gym trip with a full DVD collection of six ‘Breaking Bad’ seasons. I got jealous: that was indeed a great find and pretty serendipitous for Leon has been watching the series. In any case, that same day, when I was walking to the gym hours later I noticed a long bag that looked like it contained a tent. It was a legit find: there was a note that said ‘Free. Take home.’ So, on the way back I took. I was a mile away from my place, and this thing weighed a ton. 15 kilos I estimated. I was pretty tired–some nasty bug brought me down the day earlier–so I began to wonder why it was that the tent is so heavy. I stopped and looked at the bag. It said momandpop on the side. A strange name for a tent-making company, I thought. I started feeling the bag, then I unzipped it. Guess what it was that I found inside? Khm…It was a foldable infant bed. No, I did not throw it away. Rather, dutifully, I dragged it to the Hangleton square a few hundred yards away and put it in front of a charity container. The note ‘Free. Take home.’ was still in my pocket. I felt fooled but covered my disappointment with a ‘good deed’ feeling.