Social Graces

Have you noticed how eager people with poor social skills are to criticize others for their social faux pas?

“Can you believe Peter? He is so rude! He sat down without offering me a chair first!”

Yes, that Peter is such an evil-doer. Of course, you called me to yell at me that I was inconveniencing you with my son’s death 5 weeks after the funeral, but that’s such a small thing compared to Peter’s intolerable rudeness.

“This Anna person is so rude! She grabbed the last piece of gooseberry pie without asking me if I wanted it!”

Yes, Anna is such a freak! Of course, you reduced a colleague to tears the other day by telling her she must be a bad parent if her very sick child keeps crying in this annoying way, but who cares about that when gooseberry pie is at stake?


A curious difference: being under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a mitigating factor in the US but an aggravating factor in Russia.

The American justice system is all about intent, motive, mind-reading. I find that very disturbing. None of these things matter to the victims, yet every other criminal trial is dedicated to the weird guesswork about thoughts and motives.

I watch a lot of Forensic Files, etc programs, hence the observation.

The Affirmative Consent Bill

So have you heard about the “Affirmative Consent” bill adopted in California? In part, the bill forces colleges to do the job of law enforcement, which is bizarre in and by itself. California’s higher education system is broke.  It’s in such a bad shape that I don’t think there is even a possibility of saving it from a complete demise. But there are ways to destroy it even faster. That can be achieved by making the tragically broke schools take on the job of other state agencies.

I will never understand the US tradition of making colleges investigate and punish crime when in every society under the sun this is a task of law enforcement agencies. I tried to figure it out, but I still don’t get it. Nobody asks colleges to investigate and punish murder or even burglary. There are no “murder prevention” or “mugging prevention” campaigns on campuses, are there? Then what is the reason that rape is not treated as a crime that it is and is pushed so aggressively into the lap of academics and college administrators who are grievously unprepared to address it?

Of course, the “Affirmative Consent” doesn’t stop at that and offers more insanity:

“Students engaging in sexual activity would first need ‘affirmative consent’ from both parties — a clear threshold that specifically could not include a person’s silence, a lack of resistance or consent given while intoxicated.”

There is obviously no useful purpose that this can serve. If a person is terrified of saying “no” or resisting, that same person will be terrified into saying “yes.” There is absolutely no practical benefit anybody can derive from these bills and policies. But the point of the bill is not to help rape victims or prevent rape. The only way to do that would be to focus the efforts of the law-makers on the actual institution whose job it is to fight crime: law enforcement. 

People, please observe what is happening: the state is divesting itself of its functions at a very rapid pace. Now it has gone so far as to openly declare that it has no interest in punishing crime and it’s up to regular citizens to do that. Or not. This isn’t just the erosion of the welfare state. We are way past that. This is the erosion of the state, period. 

Those of you who are celebrating this piece of legislation need to wake up. We are in a country that brings heavily armed troops into the streets to target peaceful protesters. And the same country refuses to persecute violent crime against individuals in such an open and blatant fashion. Think about it. Police has enormous resources yet is removing itself from investigating actual crime. This is a road towards a very dangerous place. Law enforcement is paid for by our taxes (although not for long). Shouldn’t it at least pretend to do its job for a short while longer?

P.S. This post is evidence that I find the agony of the nation-state as painful as any other person.

The Historic Origins of Depression

Some interesting questions about depression:

Depression isn’t new, but its prevalence certainly is.

I wonder why? There has to be some cause, some reason why it affects so many when historically that seems not to have been the case.

My guess is that the narrative of depression – that it is something that just is – is not correct.

Historically, depression is a very new ailment. In the XVIIIth century, it suddenly became fashionable among the European aristocrats to experience bouts of melancholy. In the XIXth century, the representatives of the middle classes who pursued social mobility started to imitate this affliction of the rich and the spoiled.

For most of the human history, all the absolute majority of people did was trying to survive. Not starving or freezing to death and not being murdered were the goals that occupied every waking moment of pretty much everybody with very few exceptions.

In the developed societies today, basic survival is not an issue for anybody. With our basic needs taken care of, we can pursue goals of a higher order. We can now afford to pay attention to our emotional states, our feelings, our moods. Depression is an ailment of a rich, mostly content society, and that’s why it couldn’t have become prevalent at any other moment in history.

Party Recap

The party was a great success, people. Everybody ate and drank a lot. Except me who hardly got a chance to try anything.

The guests loved the food. The black-eyed pea salad was an enormous success (thank you, R, for the recipe!) I marinated it overnight in the dressing I made of olive oil and pomegranate balsamic vinegar. The guests were attacking it so fast that I had to steal some from the table or I’d never have gotten a chance to try it.

The avocado wrapped smoked salmon was very popular with N. I think he ate all of it by himself. Of course, there wasn’t a lot of it to begin with because smoked salmon is expensive.

The Ukrainian response to meatloaf was greeted with a lot of joy. I made two kinds, differently spiced. One was walnut- encrusted and the other one was pumpkin seed-encrusted.

Everybody loved my “everything salad.” The “everything salad” is what you make out of all the little things left behind after cooking. Just shred them, mix them all up, add the dressing, and people will spend the entire night telling you that you created an exotic bouquet of flavors.

The two pies that I made (gooseberry/blueberry and strawberry/peach) were wildly successful. And so were the hot sandwiches served cold. Plus there were numerous things on sticks. And hummus with crackers.

The shocking thing about the evening was that the most popular drink of the night was Diet Coke. The 30+ guests didn’t even touch any of the hard liquor we’d bought. They had very little of the wine. They drank the sangria I made (which seems to have been too strong), and that was it. N was very impressed by how virtuous and moderate these academics were.

Even though everybody was mostly sober, I did catch a few whispers about the discussions of my tenure case by the tenure committee the day before.

And I also got some really good gifts. The long-time dream of mine to have a fish-shaped dish to serve my salted herring (selyodka) was fulfilled by a colleague from Venezuela. I have no idea how she guessed that I wanted it.

Conclusion: parties are not a bad thing at all.

The Table

OK, the table is almost ready, my friends. Here it is:


I will be adding a couple more things but mostly this is it. We also have a separate table with beverages. The only beverage on the table is the traditional Russian kisel with gooseberries.

The goal was to make the table colorful and not boring and I think that goal was achieved.

This is the biggest party I have ever thrown. Well, it is actually the only party I have ever thrown, so we’ll see how it goes.

Who Is Putin Afraid of?

Two of Putin’s aides have given a semi-clandestine interview to a progressive journalist (progressive in this context means anti-Putin).

Among many other things, the Putinoids mentioned that Putin wants Hillary to win the next presidential election.

We all know what this means, right? One of the oldest rules of the organization Putin represents is “Always say the exact opposite if what you mean.” Whenever Stalin, for instance, would say, “The USSR is looking for peace,” people with even half a brain knew he was telling them to prepare for war. The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of mutual non-aggression meant that war with Germany was inevitable, etc.

So Putin is afraid of Hillary winning. This is very interesting – and it makes sense, too. Now we need to put aside whatever feelings we have about Hillary and make sure she wins. Whatever it is that bugs you about her – and obviously there’s a lot, I know – Putin is worse.

Putin’s Greatest Advantage

Putin’s great advantage is that he understands that the nation- state is dead while the so-called Western leaders still haven’t managed to catch up and are speaking to him in a dead language of an obsolete state form.

A new world order will follow the creation of the new state-form, as it always does. And whoever learns to adapt to it first will own the world. It doesn’t seem that the US stands a chance of winning this contest for now because you can’t win if you are not even aware that the game is on.

Like in soccer, the team that fails to show up automatically loses.