Portraits in the Office

It’s normal for academics to keep a portrait of their favorite writer or scientist on the walls of their offices. Sometimes, however, people get all weird about that.

Once, I went to the office of a Canadian scholar who was Chair of a Department of Slavic Studies. I started talking to him, and then I noticed a big portrait of Vladimir Putin on his wall. And I kind of didn’t feel like talking to him about anything any more. I tried convincing myself that it was some kind of an ironic post-modern gesture but there weren’t any horns or tail drawn on the portrait. It looked like it had been hung there completely in earnest.

The scholar in question specialized in the Silver Age of Russian poetry, which is an area completely unconnected to Putin.

That was kind of scary. And it was a very good university, too.

As I always say, people are weird.

More about the Individual

This wasn’t all the Overt Dictionary had to say about THE individual. Here is another curious statement (the punctuation of the original is preserved): “The Mass Media: a machine which attempts to condition the individual into becoming a completely docile, passive, creature.”

“Docile, passive, creature” is too good not to be recorded on my blog.

Who’s the Individual?

Since people liked the Overt Dictionary so much, here is a fresh definition via Twitter: “The Mass Media: a group of billionaire owned media outlets, which work to incessantly indoctrinate the individual.”

When I saw the part about “the individual”, I remembered how in the Soviet Union we always had these banners everywhere that said, “Everything we do is in the name of the individual and for the sake of the individual.”

“Oh yes,” we used to joke. “And we even know the name of that individual.” 🙂

You Never Know Anybody Entirely

My sister and I have been extremely close for 29 years. So I thought I knew everything there was to know about her. But you never fully know anybody, it seems.

In the time I’ve been away from Montreal, she learned to drive. And I discovered that she is one of those drivers who keep making loud comments addressed to other drivers who obviously can’t hear what is being said.

The first time I was in the car with her, I almost fell out of the car because I laughed so hard when she made a passionate diatribe telling the driver that passed us by everything she thought about his personality, appearance, and poor prospects in life.

Now I wonder what kind of driver I would be if I were ever to learn. Maybe I’d discover new things about myself, too.

Are you a talkative or a silent driver?

At Las Americas

I’m at the best bookstore for Spanish-language literature in North America. The store is called Las Americas and is located in Montreal. I come here at least once a year and blow an outrageous amount of money on books. This year I wanted to be virtuous and buy one small book, at most.

However, I’m thinking of embarking on a new research project and I just spotted two books that fit in with it perfectly. One costs $22.95 and another one is a hardcover and costs $41.50. They are very recent and are not available anywhere else on this continent yet (that I’m aware of). I’m dying to have them but the guilt is torturing me.

Please, dear readers, help me alleviate the guilt. Should I buy them? Or just one of them? Or try to control myself? But if I do, won’t I kick myself for my stinginess once I’m back in Illinois?

To buy or not to buy, that is the question. I’m holding them in my lap right now and feeling incapable of letting them go. In case you haven’t realized, I’m obsessed with books.

From Seville to Wisconsin

And in Wisconsin, the recall of Republicans pretty much failed. Two were recalled but one wasn’t, which means that the Republican majority there is intact. If after everything that happened in Wisconsin it is still so hard to organize a recall, then what can we hope for in states where the situation is less dire?

In the meantime, people in Spain are showing the world that they cannot be lied to and abused with impunity. I wonder if they have some balls we could borrow for a little while.

London vs Madrid

For centuries, the British looked down on the Spaniards as uncivilized and barbaric. I remember traveling in Spain with a group of British tourists who wouldn’t shut up about heir outrage over the bullfighting, the low-cultured folks in the streets and the dirty restaurants and cafes.

Compare, however, the peaceful political protests of the Spanish indignados who go out into the streets to denounce the faulty political system and the crazed mobs in the UK. The Spanish protesters want to repair what’s broken in their society. The British mobs just want to destroy some more.

Of course, most people in Britain are as horrified wih the rioters as I am. However, something tels me that there is a huge overlap among the groups that burn and loot in Britain and denounce the barbarity of the Spanish when they get a rest from those noble activities.

Now who is a barbarian?

On London Riots

My Twitter feed has been inundating me with gushing comments as to the political promise implicit in oh so progressive London riots. (This tells you a lot about the quality of my Twitter feed, of course). For me, “progressive” and “riots” are not words that should appear in the same sentence. Most of us have heard stories of out-of-control British tourists and football fans*. Is there a chance the rioters are the same hoodlums who go crazy when their team loses and not people with a progressive political agenda? I asked myself.

So I spent the morning reading every account I could find about the riots online. My suspicions were confirmed: this has nothing to do with politics. Looting stores, burning cars, beating up passers-by, and assaulting diners at a restaurant are criminal acts that are not motivated by any interest in social change or political activism. I am shocked at the irresponsible bloggers and twitterers who enjoy glamorizing these acts of violence from their comfortable arm-chairs tucked safely away across the Atlantic. There is no doubt in my mind that every single one of them would be horribly outraged if somebody tried stealing their computer or burning their car.

If you ever feel the desire to see something redeeming in the actions of these rioters, imagine them chasing you down the street or breaking into your house. If you don’t think you’d like that a whole lot, then stop blabbering about the rising of the people and the dawn of a new, fairer society. Raging crowds have no interest in your political agenda. They just want to rob a store and have fun beating up people.

There is this trend among pseudo-Liberals that glamorizes poverty. A low-income person is seen by these affluent progressives as somebody who has a mysterious communion with higher truths and authentic values. As a result, the poor can do no evil in their eyes. Unfamiliar with the brutalizing, stupefying effects of poverty, they refuse to understand that their lofty ideals are simply absent among the rioters.

What has been happening in Great Britain has nothing to do with anybody’s political agenda. It is just an angry eruption of a mob that uses this opportunity to loot, steal, and assault people. You have to be a real jerk to see this as something positive.

* For me, that is football, everyody,and I am too old to learn otherwise.