A Good Analysis of Ukraine

I read the following article and wondered why it was so reasonable:

For much of this discussion over Ukraine, we have been told that the country is divided between the pro-European West and the pro-Russian East. While there is some truth to this, the real divide in Ukraine is not East versus West, but up versus down.

The question is will Ukraine move up towards more freedom and the rule of law or will this country fall further down towards despotism and crony capitalism. There are very few people in Ukraine who benefit from the country going down further.

And then I saw the author’s last name (Zapesochny) and had my answer.

And this suggestion makes a lot of sense:

To keep Ukraine out of Putin’s orbit, it will require Ukraine’s protestors to discredit the KGB with the older generation in both countries. . . As the older Ukrainians finally learn the truth about their relatives, it might even encourage a similar movement in Russia. The KGB’s successors would eventually be forced to concede if enough people stand up to them.

Good article, I recommend.

Boring, Pedestrian, Prosaic Math

A student just had a tantrum in my Intro to Literature class.

“I’m in math!” he vociferated. “We don’t do creative and original! Math is not creative or original! You don’t need imagination to do math. You barely even need to think. Everything is clear and direct.”

Then he started throwing things on the ground and generally thrashing about.

So I did the most unusual thing and made a little speech in defense of the creative and intellectual merits of math.

Ukrainians Are Nothing

Here is what I don’t get. When Americans march on Washington, they are the heroes of the Civil Rights movement. When Egyptians come out into the Tahrir square, they are defending democracy. When Spaniards protest in Madrid, they are fighting against global injustice. But when Ukrainians do the exact same thing, they are “nothing but a pawn”:

When I am not being cynical and flip, I do (ineffectually) wish the Ukrainians the best–some maximum of liberty, some minimum of loss of life. It doesn’t mean much, but I don’t really regard them as nothing but a realpolitik pawn.

What do Ukrainians need to do to stop being “nothing?”

Note that when Russians protested in 2011-12 against their own corrupt president just like Ukrainians are protesting against theirs, nobody said Russians were “pawns.” Except Putin who said they were Hillary Clinton’s puppets.

And how obnoxious is the quoted sentence? So much posing, so much self-admiration, and all just to say that Ukrainians are nothing.

Geographers, WTF?

A student in Geography just wrote to me to ask for my help on a research project he is doing. The project consists of locating at least one person (and I quote directly)

that is from one of 12 regions of the world.  As you are from Ukraine, you region is the Russian Domain.

WTF, geographers? What’s “Russian Domain” and how come I’m placed in it?

High points on antagonizing Ukrainians right before interviewing them.

Since when are geographers in the business of inventing weird geographical categories?

I don’t even know if I should help this student.

Tony Judt on Yalta

Tony Judt is one more in the line of eminent historians who acknowledges that WWII was won by the Red Army. He also correctly points out that blaming the allies for Yalta agreements is idiotic. There was no way Stalin would have agreed to relinquish the occupied territories. And he had no need of the Allied forces to win the war.

Judt says that Stalin’s mistake was refusing to participate in the Marshall Plan. This is a weird statement because Stalin had nothing to gain from participating.

The material well-being in the USSR soared in the 1950s and earky 1960s anyway.

What Pleases Women

Readers of novels are and have always been women. The goal of authors who write entertainment literature is to sell books, so they have to please the audience. I read quite a bit of mystery novels and I keep noticing that:

1) A hard-core male detective is always extremely chivalrous, uxorious, and faithful.

2) The only way for a male protagonist of such books to have a new woman in his life is if the one he’s with leaves him or dies. The detective will spend about 2 years grieving and drinking himself to death, but then a new woman will give him hope.

3) Male protagonists are always dumped by female protagonists.

4) Female protagonists, however, dump men all over the place. The #1 reason is that they are “not ready for a relationship.” The #2 reason is that they want more excitement.

5) If a hard-core male detective is dumped by his deeply beloved wife (and there is no other kind), she marries a much younger man almost instantly while the abandoned hard-core male detective will pine for her for decades to come. And raise his children, her children, and the children she has with the new man.

6) A hard-core female detective apprehends criminals in her 9th month of pregnancy and always has a husband whose work allows him to be with their children all or almost all of the time. It seems like the only point of childbirth for women in these novels is to get an opportunity to pursue a gang of armed and vicious killers while beginning to go into labor. After that valuable experience, the child loses all importance until s/he is 5 and can be conveniently kidnapped by a gang of armed and vicious pedophiles for the hard-core female detective to pursue.

7) A hard-core male detective is incapable of having sex without being profoundly in love.

8) A hard-core female detective prefers to have casual sex and lots of it.

9) Every woman has a male friend who will do absolutely anything for her. She, however, keeps forgetting he exists.

10) Male protagonists are all great cooks while female protagonists can’t boil water.

Entertainment movies embody male fantasies while entertainment literature does the same for women. And this makes for very repetitive and boring entertainment.

How to Be a Cultured Person

I don’t know if you are familiar with Anton Chekhov’s letter to his brother where the writer offers a definition of what a cultured person is. Like everything Chekhov wrote, the letter is beautiful and I highly recommend it. (If you prefer to read in Spanish, writer Elvira Lindo translated it and writer Andrés Trapiello posted it on his blog).

Here are just small excerpts but it definitely merits being read in full:

Cultured people must, in my opinion, satisfy the following conditions:

1. They respect human personality, and therefore they are always kind, gentle, polite, and ready to give in to others. They do not make a row because of a hammer or a lost piece of india-rubber; if they live with anyone they do not regard it as a favour and, going away, they do not say “nobody can live with you.” They forgive noise and cold and dried-up meat and witticisms and the presence of strangers in their homes.

There is nobody I detest more than people who bark at their family members to let off steam. It is absolutely disgusting and incredibly vulgar to make one’s “moods” somebody else’s problem. Note, also, that this is written by a man to another man in a profoundly patriarchal country. This first point on the list is all about co-existing with women without tyrannizing them.

They do not disparage themselves to rouse compassion. They do not play on the strings of other people’s hearts so that they may sigh and make much of them. They do not say “I am misunderstood,” or “I have become second-rate,” because all this is striving after cheap effect, is vulgar, stale, false.

See? Chekhov hated whiners as much as I do and considered them vulgar.

They develop the aesthetic feeling in themselves. They cannot go to sleep in their clothes, see cracks full of bugs on the walls, breathe bad air, walk on a floor that has been spat upon, cook their meals over an oil stove.

I don’t really get the part about the oil stove. I’m guessing it’s the XIXth century equivalent to eating from a can over the sink.

New President

Our university has selected its new president. What we know about the new president is:

a) He accepted a job offer from another university just a few months ago and now ditched them for us without any warning.

b) The other university had to find out they were being discarded from the newspapers. The new president explained his actions by saying that he didn’t want to miss “an opportunity of a lifetime.”

c) His current university had spent about $109,000 on this search only to be stuck with the need to conduct another search a few months after hiring this president.

d) He also told the school he is abandoning that our university “wooed” him which is not true. He made active efforts to be hired.

e) He will be making $55,000 more annually in salary as a result of ditching the other school.

This story tells us that the new president is:

a) opportunistic;

b) ruthless;

c) lacks scruples;

d) doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him as long as he gets what he needs.


And I’m not being in the least sarcastic. Our senior administrator’s main job duty is to go to the state legislature and claw our funding and our pensions out of the dishonest and grasping arms of our legislators. And who would you rather have defending your pension plan: an absent-minded, sensitive, ultra-polite, kind, extremely honest intellectual OR an opportunistic shark who ruthlessly pursues the goal of getting money?

The university president needs to know how to beg for money so that I don’t. He needs to be fixated on money, unscrupulous, dishonest and tough so that I can be principled, otherworldly, scholarly and genteel. It’s the perfect division of labor, people.

P.S. We don’t need to mention any names in the comments, as usual.