People, when I say “MRA” I refer to folks who call themselves “Men’s Rights Advocates.”

I never write about the NRA because I have absolutely no knowledge about it.

Steam Has to Go

I don’t understand why it’s so hard to give away a really kick-ass Steam account for free. Come on, folks, help a fellow out, just take it. Here is a more detailed announcement:

I am giving away my Steam account with the following games:
Black Ops I
Black Ops II with all four map packs
Metro 2033
Supreme Commander 2
James Cameron’s Avatar
What you need to do:
1) Login into this Yahoo email account:
Password:  DoNotCamp777   (case-sensitive)
If it doesn’t work, it means someone already got the account.
2) Change the email’s password.
3) Find Steam online and install it on your PC.
4) Login into the following Steam account:
Login: niktuz
Password: same as for the email
5) Because you are logging in from a new computer, Steam will send a verification code to the Yahoo email above.
6) After you enter the verification code, change the Steam password as well.
7) GLHF!

A Confused Armored Vehicle

All of a sudden, I’m a person with a house, a mortgage, a driver’s license, and a car. And it’s not just any car either (details to follow).

This is too much in too short a period of time. It’s too confusing, and I haven’t had the time to process it.

“Congratulations! You have now moved into a different social class!” an American friend announced with a look of extreme satisfaction after I drove her to look at The Hedgehogs. I went to the bathroom and threw up. And I concealed it from her because I didn’t want to make my utter terror public .

When I moved into my current rented townhouse I thought it was the height of luxury. I had never lived in such an enormous space. It had two floors and household appliances I had never even seen before. I laughed for a week about the weirdness of having a dishwasher. I’m not one of the people who have dishwashers. I never wanted to be one of these people. A dishwasher is one of these completely superfluous, weird items that make me feel like a spoiled princess. And not in a good way.

And now I’m moving into an even more luxurious lifestyle. I’m freaked out beyond what I can tell you. I even have a gym membership now. To two different gyms! People say I now need to buy a parking spot on campus. I’m also hearing that the neighbors in The Hedgehogs’ subdivision are dying to meet me. They might even bring pies (or is it just something I have seen on TV? Does this happen in real life?), and the idea freaks both me and N out enormously. And what are you supposed to do when people bring you pies? I can emigrate twice, get divorced and remarried, raise a teenager, have 4 part-time jobs at the same time,  deal with having -4$ in my checking account and no savings account at all, but I have never dealt with friendly neighbors who want to know my name, and that shit is scary when you have to face it at 38.

I’m a proletarian by nature. Wherever I go, I always pick the most low-class place to patronize by instinct, and I love it. I like people who take buses, I get them, they get me. I like having dinner at 5 pm. I’m terrified of the very concept of coffee-tables and having a formal dining room (which I will never have, unless I’m sentenced to do so by a court of law, believe me.) These middle-class Americans confuse me. I mean, they are great people, but I’m so different from them. They go to church, and they pay for horse-riding and tennis lessons. This is just freaky.

I’m scared, I’m confused. I’m disturbed by this talk of retirement accounts and mortgages. I feel the need to make some spaghetti and eat them with my hands just to reaffirm my low-class identity. And I don’t even want any spaghetti. Plus I’m working hard not to develop Type II diabetes, and how middle-class is that?

I don’t even recognize myself any longer! I look in the mirror and I see a stranger. She has a husband, a banker, a psychoanalyst, a handyman, and actual jewelry. And she prefers to stay at home and read to going out to a bar, and that’s just not normal. I don’t even have a favorite bar any longer and I barely ever drink.

And you know what? I worked so hard on moving on and not being the me who is shiftless, messy, poor, irresponsible, debt-ridden, profligate, spontaneous, lazy, and freaky but now that I achieved my goal, I’m terrified of letting her go. It wasn’t all bad. She had some really good times, and it’s very hard to accept that it’s time to let her go.

I spent the entire night walking around the house, crying and trying to accept that it’s OK to let her go because I’m not that person any longer. I don’t do any of the things she used to, but it’s still hard, it’s too hard.

As a Russian-language novel I like says, “enjoy the unusual experience of seeing an armored vehicle in a state of utter confusion.”

Your favorite armored vehicle is in a state of utter confusion right now.

My People

Somebody wrote an email to me the other day that I found curious and wanted to respond to it publicly. Here is the relevant bit (quoted with the author’s permission, of course):

You are brilliant, that goes without saying, and fascinating, too. But, God, if I may say so and I hope you don’t take it the wrong way, but how can people tolerate to be around you? You are so radical, and manichaean, everything is just black and white with you. People must be terrified of saying something wrong and have you tear into them!

Yes, it’s true. People often say they are afraid of me. But they are wrong.

I always subdivide everybody into “my people” and “not my people.” The moment I decide that somebody is one of “my people”, that’s it, there will never be any more criticism or judgment of them, ever. “My people” can do nothing wrong. They can espouse any political beliefs, lead any lifestyle, do anything, say anything, have any opinion they want of me, but I will always be on their side, loyal as a dog.

It’s usually a very small thing that convinces me that somebody is “my people.” And it works the same way in real life and here on the blog. I can rant and rave against somebody, but then they say something that makes me decide they are “my people”, and that’s it. The ranting and the judgment end that moment. I’m still me, so I will argue and debate, but “my people” don’t get banned.

Sometimes, the recognition is immediate. Sometimes, it takes years or even decades for me to decide that he or she is “my people.” It might take something really enormous for me to see somebody this way. But it can also be a tiny little thing.

If I believe that one of “my people” is really messing up, I will speak to him or her about it. I will be very direct and say exactly what I think but I will only do it once. If I see that what I have to say is not welcome, I will never repeat it. I will never even think it, so people don’t have to fear a constant pitying or judging stare from me.

Of course, it is possible to fall out of the “my people” group but you really need to try because it’s not very easy to do. I had a very close friend, for instance, who let me down in a big way. And then did it two more times. I’m not Jesus, so the third time was it. There weren’t any scenes or big proclamations, I just moved her into the category of “not my people” inside my own mind, and that was the end of it. But then we met several years later and when we were saying good-bye, I saw tears in her eyes. And she was back on the list of “my people” immediately.

I hope this will help clarify things for those who keep asking me, “But why do you keep tolerating this guy on your blog when he’s such a jerk?”, “Why do you keep hanging out with her when she is such a loser?”,  and “After everything she’s done you are still not even capable of criticizing her?” I do it because they are “my people.” And that’s just how it is.


So. I just drove my new car home from St. Louis. I was alone in the car, and this was the first time ever I drove alone on the interstate.

I was crying for the entire 53 minutes of the trip and yelling folk songs in Ukrainian at the top of my lungs. I’m a really bad singer and I wouldn’t do any singing unless it was absolutely necessary.

It was all kinds of horrible, people. But at least I’m now home with my car. It’s a very beautiful car.

Too Freudian

So the MRA mass murderer killed women and Asians and his mother is Asian? And that’s the same mother who was callous enough to call the county mental health hotline when her son posted videos threatening to kill women?

This all is getting way too Freudian even for me. Has anybody checked to see if this whole story hasn’t been sponsored by the Association of American Psychoanalysts?

Timothy Snyder on The Future of Europe

Reader NG brought a link to a very insightful article by the brilliant Timothy Snyder, one of the world’s greatest living historians. Snyder is deeply disturbed (as we all are) by the results of the recent European elections that revealed a deep yearning, shared by way too many Europeans, for the return of fascism. Snyder insists that we should all look to Ukraine as an example of a successful resistance to fascism:

Europe has a problem, and Ukraine might be the solution.

In the elections that took place across Europe on Sunday for the European Parliament, turnout was low (43 percent), and the anti-European far right made substantial gains, most notably in France, where the National Front took 25 percent. In the election that took place the same day for the Ukrainian presidency, turnout was high (61 percent), the victorious candidate ran on a pro-EU platform, and the far-right candidates (2 percent) were beaten by everyone, including the Jewish candidate. If Europeans voted the way Ukrainians did, Europe could count on a far more secure and prosperous future.

I agree with Snyder and believe there is another unsung hero of the recent years in Europe: Spain. Spain has a very recent (in historic terms) memory of a home-grown fascist dictatorship. Both Spain and Ukraine are traditionally marginalized in Europe as “not completely European”, but the way things are shaping up is making it clear that these two countries are the ones that actually preserve the truly European values of democracy, civic engagement, Enlightened thinking, and anti-fascism.

Europe needs to help Spain withstand the dangerous fantasies of Catalonians and support Ukraine in its fight for territorial integrity. This shouldn’t be done for the sake of Ukraine and Spain, but for the sake of Europe itself. Snyder is absolutely right in pointing out the gravest danger faced by Europe: parochialism and outdated fantasies:

Meanwhile, the fantasy on offer from the European far right this year has been the nation-state. If only Scotland, or England, or France, or Austria, or Greece, or Bulgaria could finally be free of pushy European bureaucrats, then life would return to normal and all would be well. All would not be well. . . The nation-state is a utopia. There is no way back to it.

It’s true, the nation-state has served its purpose. The world has changed since the XVIIIth century when the myth of a nation was born. Trying to revive this myth and break European countries into ever-smaller bits and pieces will only serve one goal:

The leaders of the European far right, helped by the recent woolly-headedness of much of the European left, are moving their peoples not back toward the nation-state (which is impossible) but toward Russian domination of Europe. 

While the Scots and the Catalonians play their infantile “we want our own country, too, even if it’s the size of a handkerchief” games and erode the EU, Putin is laughing all the way to dominating the continent.

Snyder offers the most clear-headed, profound diagnosis of what that Europeans are trying to accomplish by voting for ultra-nationalistic parties. They “are voting for a fantasy of separation from the world”, the historian says.

The world has become too complex, too menacing. The fantasy of a small, isolated country that has checked out of all the difficulties of living in the globalized world of advanced capitalism and postmodern values is just that, a fantasy. But while Europeans are indulging in it, somebody who is less terrified of reality will take charge. We all remember who that was in 1932. There is no reason to hope that, this time around, it will be anybody better.

The EU needs Ukraine more than Ukraine needs the EU, Snyder says. And he’s right. Ukrainians are right now paying an enormous price for resisting fascism and defending democracy. Ukraine still believes that the Europe of high civilization and Enlightened values is there. If Europe sees its reflection in the enamored eyes of Ukrainians, maybe that will help it to live up to the beauty of that – now largely fictional – image.

I’m a Square

Another hilarious thing about hanging out with people in their sixties is that they can go on and on about their weed-smoking experiences while I sit there like a total square with nothing to share.

I try not to look too scandalized, but they notice and laugh, “It’s OK, kid, we grew up in the sixties. That’s just how things were.”

What Would Be Fair

I read and I listened, and then I read some more. Still, nobody has been able to convince me that any system of taxation is fairer than a 15% flat tax on everybody but the people below the level of poverty and on every kind of income.

At the same time, I believe that any inherited wealth should be taxed at 90-95%.

You see, I’m opposed of depriving people of what they made to an excessive degree. But if the people who made the money aren’t there, then there is no unfairness.

I also believe that the rights to a work of art or intellect should revert to the society as a whole upon the creator’s death.