High Culture

I knew there were many Russian-speaking tourists in Prague the moment I walked into my hotel room and saw a wall sign explaining that white bath towels are not meant for cleaning shoes and removing makeup. The sign also offered a detailed explanation of alternative (and less messy) ways to perform these tasks.

UBI Enthusiast Sees the Light

A great article on the UBI as a taxpayer-funded gift for Zuckerberg and Co:

To the rescue comes UBI. The policy was once thought of as a way of taking extreme poverty off the table. In this new incarnation, however, it merely serves as a way to keep the wealthiest people (and their loyal vassals, the software developers) entrenched at the very top of the economic operating system. Because of course, the cash doled out to citizens by the government will inevitably flow to them.

And more:

Under the guise of compassion, UBI really just turns us from stakeholders or even citizens to mere consumers. Once the ability to create or exchange value is stripped from us, all we can do with every consumptive act is deliver more power to people who can finally, without any exaggeration, be called our corporate overlords.

The author is a former UBI enthusiast who saw how enthusiastic Silicone Valley is for it and realized what was going on.

I recommend the whole thing. God, at least there’s somebody willing to think about stuff and change his mind.

Ugly Ass in the Square

So I come to the square and feel overwhelmed by the phenomenal castle that the photo does not begin to do justice to. Loud choral music is creating a surreal experience. But it’s impossible fully to immerse oneself in the beauty because some geniuses decided to project a video of some ugly-ass naked guy on the wall next to the cathedral. You can see the bright-lit circle on the wall in the photo. Why anybody thinks it’s appropriate or cute to spoil a once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing this place for the first time with a video of a really bad quality ass is a mystery. After the ugly ass video ended, we were shown a video of people grocery shopping. At least they were dressed but the whole thing still detracted from the experience.

The worst part is that if you want to hear the beautiful music, you have to stand close to the blasted video.

Svejk’s Anabasis, Part II

I got off the train and found myself in what our Mexican friends call “the ass of the world.” A tiny little station in the middle of nowhere. I had to buy a new ticket from a machine because it’s a Sunday, and everything is closed. Shouldn’t have bothered because nobody checks them anyway.

If you have ever seen a German train ticket, you know how hard it is to read for a foreigner with no experience in code-breaking. There was no wi-fi and no food fit to eat. I mean, there was food being sold, but it was surrounded by clouds of fat black flies, and even I don’t get that hungry.

Finally, my train “to Prague” arrives, I board it and. . I get a really bad feeling. Something isn’t right. Again I start to bug passengers and they manage to communicate to me that it’s not a direct train. I’ve got to change to another one somewhere in the middle of yet another nowhere.

And talking about nowhere, there’s no indication on the ticket that this is a journey that requires a transfer.

I did get to Prague in the end and I’ll try to see what I can in the 15 minutes left before the sun goes down. I’m not upset, though. I’m glad to know I have great instincts and a functional level of German.

Svejk’s Anabasis, Part I

(If you don’t understand the title, then you haven’t read one of the most important novels in Czech literature).

So the last time I posted, I was stuck in Schwandorf with a bunch of confused Thai tourists. Finally, our train to Prague arrived and we boarded it. The train was very full, and I got separated from my Thai friends.

As I say down, I had a really bad feeling. I tried to read but I couldn’t because I knew something wasn’t right. Nobody in the car spoke anything but German, so I started bugging passengers in my deficient German. Finally, I resuscitated some remnants of the language from the depths of my memory and realized that the train to Prague actually went in two different directions. The tail went to Prague while the head went into the profundities of Germany. The two parts of the train had been disconnected after we boarded.

I got off the blasted thing but – and this still bugs me – I couldn’t locate the Thai tourists in time. I have a huge suitcase and the train was too full. There was not a conductor in sight to ask for help.

Müller and Schellenberg

For the Russian-speaking readers (all 3 of them), I finally figured out why I liked our German hosts Hubert and Jochen so much. Hubert is exactly like Müller in the Stirlitz TV series. And Jochen is exactly like Schellenberg.

For those who are not Soviet, this was a famous TV series about a Soviet spy in the Nazi Germany. The series was criticized for portraying high-ranking Nazis as charming, funny, complex, human, and even endearing.

I’m obviously not saying that our hosts are “like Nazis.” They are anything but. They are passionately anti-AfD and the elder host goes out at night to destroy AfD billboards in spite of his age and girth. But the affect, the intellect, and the personality are spot-on. We grew up with these characters, watched the entire series at least a dozen times, so these characters are like family members. God, I hope the hosts don’t read the post and hate me for comparing them to Nazis. Which I’m not doing! I’m comparing them to famous, talented, superstar actors.

Those were really fantastic actors who played these characters if they could do Germanness so well.

Here are the characters in the photo. The Soviet spy is the one who has his back to the camera. The series is a masterpiece, folks. It was a very risque move back in the 1970s for the genius (female) director of the series to avoid portraying any Nazi atrocities and show Germans – both Nazis and anti-Nazis in such a very human way. Plus, the most hardcore wonderful character was a pastor. A real religious Christian person. Like, when did you ever?

You can’t imagine, folks, what it meant to the Soviet people to see this series. We all grew up on a steady diet of movies about Nazis that portrayed them as piggish, ranting maniacs without a glimmer of reason or intellect. And here all of a sudden there were brilliant, profound, and sympathetic Nazis.

Just think about it, is there more glory in defeating a bunch of brainless rage machines or in outsmarting a group of very intellectually sophisticated folks?

Those who are interested can see the whole series with English subtitles here.

Less Valuable

The really funny part of the conference was at the very end when a female scholar gave a talk that condemned the patriarchal silencing of women even in the most progressive circles.

And I’m thinking, “Lady, you sat here for three days, mum as a clam, and now you are telling us? Those who wanted to speak did. I’m literally hoarse right now because I haven’t shut up in three days, and no patriarchy prevented me from doing that.”

The male scholars expressed contrition and condemned patriarchy in the discussion after the talk.

The sad part is that these female scholars are fascinating, profound, and charming human beings and very well-read, talented researchers. When you talk to them outside of male presence, they shine and sparkle. In female groups, they debate forcefully and express themselves loudly and confidently. They shut even me up. But as soon as a pair of pants walks into a room, they clam up, hunch their shoulders, and offer up nothing but meek smiles and subservient giggles.

This is not the first time I notice this. It’s always like that, even in the Humanities where women are the majority.

I remember when back in Ukraine a classmate at the uni said with complete conviction, “Well, of course, women are less valuable than men. How can anybody deny it?” I felt like she was from a different planet. It was a very weird and unpleasant feeling. I’d like to stop experiencing it already.