Christmas Advice

Do you sometimes have those days when you feel ugly, stupid, useless, fat, and irrelevant?

I do. Today is such a day for some reason. And even posting the list of my 2014 accomplishments didn’t help.

I lost a button from my coat and now I feel like a total failure of a human being because I can’t figure out where to buy buttons.

So I go into a store (that obviously doesn’t sell buttons) and feel even more useless, fat, ugly, stupid, and irrelevant. And then a very elegant black lady looks at me and says, “Wow, you look so pretty!”

And I felt better.

So here is my Christmas advice: say nice things to people because, who knows, maybe on this day they really need to hear something kind.

P.S. I blame Putin. No, seriously, I stared at his ugly mug for 2 hours yesterday, and today I feel like shit. That’s hardly a coincidence.

2014: It’s Almost a Good Bye

OK, let’s see, what on Earth have I been doing this year?

1. Learned to drive.
2. Got a driver’s license.
3. Got a car.
4. Bought a house.
5. Moved.
6. Applied for tenure.
7. Saw my first book in print.
8. Finally reunited with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in 7 years.
9. Started writing my second book.
10. Submitted 2 articles for publication. One was rejected, one is awaiting decision.
11. Supervised renovations on the new house.
12. Applied for a sabbatical.
13. Applied for an RA grant and won.
14. Dealt with a scare of the “There is a shadow in your liver but it probably isn’t cancer” variety.
15. Cured myself of diabetes.
16. Hosted my very first party at my very first house.
17. Did my very first barbecue.
18. Learned to light a fireplace.
19. Did my very first DIY project (and it came out great!)
20. Applied and got accepted to a conference but then it got cancelled.
21. Applied for another grant and lost.
22. Taught 8 courses, 7 of them different from each other.
23. Got into birdwatching and weight-lifting.
24. There was only one international trip (which is unusual for me) but N has problems with his papers (again!) so we can’t go anywhere.
25. Taught the best course of my entire teaching career.
26. Participated in political protests.
27. Survived the first anniversary.

Well, the question of why I’ve been feeling so exhausted seems to have been answered.

P.S. And how could I forget? Discovered that the nation-state was about to collapse!

Putin’s Press-Conference, Part III

Putin then heaped praise on the Ukrainian President Poroshenko, saying that Poroshenko was ready to collaborate with Putin but some mysterious members of the Ukrainian government were preventing him from doing that. This limp-wristed attempt at discrediting Poroshenko tells me that Putin fears him and sees him as a political force to be reckoned with.

Then Putin confirmed that the heroes of the Donetsk Airport were still alive and still fighting. This is great news because we’ve been fearing that they were no longer among the living.

There was also a long discussion of how the mean, horrible Ukrainians just had to get into a war (with themselves) on purpose to prevent the Russians from enjoying their massive win at the Olympics. They are really obsessed with those Olympics, folks. It’s been almost a year, and they are still going on and on about the Olympics. There is a huge sense of grievance that is being fostered in Russia about those Olympic Games. I actually started feeling sorry for the Russians after hearing this endless blabber about the Olympics. Poor freaks.

One of the journalists was holding up a pink bunny and a poster that said, “I have a kind question.” I found that to be an interesting journalistic tactic of attracting attention. 

Putin informed the audience that the line between a member of the opposition and a traitor to the nation was very blurry. You’ve really got to appreciate the honesty with which he warned the dissidents of what awaited them.

What I find really funny is that Putin moves, talks and gesticulates exactly like the career criminals in Russian TV series that N. and I love to watch. I think he works with an acting coach to acquire this persona because people watch a lot of these shows and find it easy to relate to this kind of character.

Putin’s Press-Conference, Part II

A Ukrainian journalist got up to ask Putin how he could explain waging a war against the mostly Russian-speaking population of Eastern Ukraine. He also asked Putin finally to say how many Russian soldiers had died in Russia’s war on Ukraine and when Putin was going to release the Ukrainian prisoners of war. [One of the prisoners of war is the famous Ukrainian fighter pilot Nadiya Savchenko.]

Putin responded that prisoners of war were not prisoners of war but terrorists. He also said that all of the Russian soldiers fighting in Russia were volunteers who had followed their hearts (sic) into Ukraine. He gave no indication as to when the hearts of these freaks were going to lead them back home.

Putin got angry, jerky, and in the end quite hysterical when talking about Ukraine. But in the end of his snot-slurping speech [he seems to have a cold] he said he was ready to hand the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions back to Ukraine. [Putin’s newly acquired neo-Nazi supporters have all suffered apoplectic fits.]

Then Putin declared that he is still extremely upset about the lack of respect his Olympic Games got from the West. These Olympics are somewhat of an obsession with Putinoids. In response to the question as to whether annexing the Crimea was really worth it, Putin went on and on about how much his feelings had been hurt by the lack of admiration Westerners had shown to his Olympics. He also said that Americans couldn’t blame him for annexing the Crimea after stealing Texas from Mexicans.

“It’s not about the Crimea,”” he kept repeating. 

Putin’s Press-Conference, Part I

At the very beginning of his press-conference, Putin assured his listeners that the current crisis in the Russian economy is temporary because the world economy will grow. If the world economy grows, there will be a growing need for Russian oil. Russia will come out of its current crisis in two years at most. [Putin seems to believe that the US fracking gains will be exhausted sooner than everybody predicts, which is 2020, according to everybody but Putin.]

In case there is anybody who still doesn’t know it, Putin is a hard-core Milton-Friedmanist. The main idea he expressed today (and has been expressing for the past 15 years) is that the market will correct all imbalances and regulate itself. His message at the press-conference was “keep spending, stop saving because spending is good for the economy.”

The so-called Russian journalists were stellar as always. “Now that we have seen you smile a few times, Mr. President, we all feel much better,” one of them said sycophantically.

The same journalist asked if Russia was ever going to “kick the oil habit” and Putin responded that the Russian government can’t do anything about it because that’s what the world economy is like. And then he was back to his favorite idea that markets will regulate themselves. Market forces, tax holidays, private property, business, investment, and anyway the markets need to be free to regulate themselves.

The Berlin Wall never really fell, Putin said. Americans decided after 1989 that they were a new empire, the winners, and they started to rebuild a virtual Berlin Wall.  Instead, Putin said, Americans should have worked to advance a system of economic freedom. [Because markets regulate themselves, in case you have forgotten.]

[To be continued. . .]

I Want to Believe

Russians believe that the rouble was sunk by Americans. Ukrainians also believe that the rouble was sunk by Americans. There are insistent rumors coming from Ukraine that this was promised to Ukrainians back in the spring.

Originally, I’m not inclined to believe this. Oil prices drop,  why should we look for a conspiracy behind this? Russians and Ukrainians alike have a need to believe that Americans are behind the rouble ‘ s travails and that is blinding them.

But then the reestablishment of the relations with Cuba happens. And it happens hours after the Russians have the scare of their lives as they see the rouble plummet to 80 per dollar (it went back to the still horrible 60 shortly thereafter). And two days after the Ukrainian bill passes Congress.

The rapprochement with Cuba has been in the works for months. Ever since. . .?

This is such a seductive possibility: this was all planned! The rouble, the Cuban thing, the bill, and who knows what else. All planned to coincide in time. Wouldn’t that be the best thing ever?

Oh, I want to believe. I want to believe there was a strategy all along. Is that too optimistic, though?

Income Drop and the Recession

Interesting numbers on the changes in American incomes:


As you can see, everybody’s income dropped off a cliff in 2007 (except my personal one. Mine soared but I’m weird that way). I’ll be damned if I ever listen to the stupid pundits again with their “the very rich gained from the recession.”

A Parody of Clarissa’s Blog

Self-irony is an important aspect of psychological health. Please remember that before you start reading.

There has been an announcement about a huge snowstorm approaching St.Louis.

“It’s all Putin’s fault. That vile freakazoid! This snowstorm is evidence that the nation-state is nearing its inevitable collapse,” blogger Clarissa wrote.

“I blame immigrants,” reader Hattie commented.

“Since we started talking about the weather, here is a long quote about Israel,” reader el chimed in.

“Oh, just fuck off with your stupid Israel,” reader Stringer Bell responded. “It’s just rude to hog threads like that.”

“Yes, enough of that,” reader musteryou said. “Let’s watch my new video on shamanism instead. I have found a method to make snow unimportant as an aspect of one’s profound inner life. Bataille said the same thing, as you know.”

“Ah, now you will have to agree that Michael Brown was a thug!” reader bg exclaimed triumphantly. “This snowstorm is perfect proof of that.”

“I keep telling you to read something on American history,” reader Z suggested. “Then you will know what the history of snowstorms has been like on this continent. The short story: Reagan did it.”

“As an Eastern European immigrant I have no idea what you Western sissies are whining about. A few snowflakes and you are freaking out,” reader aglaonika commented.

“Yes, since I moved to Poland, I have discovered a much more resilient attitude to the weather,” reader Cliff Arroyo added.

“Exactly,” blogger Clarissa responded. “I can speak my mind no matter how much or how little snow there is. In the post-nation-state, this will be a crucial skill that I recommend everybody to pick up. I was hoping Obama would figure this out but he always disappoints. And by the way, Putin is a vile freakazoid.”

“Since we started talking about disappointments, what about Israel and this long quote and also these 18 reading recommendations?” reader el asked.

“I’m applying to graduate school and I have read these 18 books and 520 more books,” reader leahjane shared.

“I hope those are paper books, ” reader David Bellamy said. “It is crucial for a student to start a library of her own. By the way, I want to commend you for the correct use of the present perfect tense in your statement.”

“If the American academia were prepared to hear the truth about the snow, I would have a job in the US,” reader J. Otto Pohl stated. “I have published 177 articles on the subject.”

“When you finally find the time to watch The Wire,” reader Stringer Bell gently reminded, “you will see that the problem of snow has been addressed a long time ago.”

“I’m not a Putinoid,” reader valter07 said, “but you have to agree that the world is running out of resources and that soon only the most fortunate will have access to snow. This means there will be some sort of a socialist system in the future that will guarantee a fair distribution of snow.”

“Before you start saying shit about Germany,” reader Tim commented, “here is a great video showing that you’re wrong.”

“None of this would be happening if everybody just went to a psychoanalyst already,” blogger Clarissa concluded.

P.S. There has been no announcement of a snowstorm in St. Louis, by the way.

Where’s My Beard?

Just spent 20 minutes arguing with a student who was insisting that I taught him German back in 2010. At the end of the conversation, I found myself in a weird position of saying, “I swear to you that I don’t speak German. No, but I swear. No, I haven’t forgotten teaching German. I promise I never did.”

I have no idea how anybody could have confused me with the 6-foot-3 bearded American who actually taught that course. But I’m urgently making an appointment at the waxing salon.

US and Cuba Restore Relations

Wow, finally Obama is waking up and getting into the game:

The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, American officials said Wednesday.

In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final meeting at the Vatican, President Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 miles off the American coast.

This is a lot better than handing Cuba over to Putin. This is good news and a big win for the good guys. Of course, the Cuban immigrants will be upset but it isn’t like world politics has to bend to their immigrant trauma.