Rambling

For reasons of heroic service to the academic community, I’ve been writing by hand a lot in the past two weeks. And now my wrist is slaughtering me. I could barely hold my plate of food in line at the cafeteria today. It wasn’t a particularly large plate, either.

And then I turn on my phone and discover that Zadie Smith (whom I love) is releasing a new book. Of short stories! It’s downright cruel to do this to me when I’m already very much behind on all the wonderful reading that’s waiting for me.

By the way and since I’m kind of rambling already, the only person around here I talk to about what I’m reading and what she’s reading doesn’t have her GED yet. So that’s for those who keep telling me, “why do you hang out with those hicks?” People can have difficult lives and live in poky little apartments and still be fascinating, profound people. I find this kind of snobbery tiresome.

I’m actually a huge snob but not about credentials or money or anything like that. I have extreme snobbery towards superficial people whose brains have stopped developing and who think people without degrees are all stupid rednecks with nothing interesting to say.

We were asked over for a playdate today, and this is a family that lives in a very modest apartment. And by modest I mean, really really modest. Dignified poverty type of modest. But it’s such a great place because I felt completely at peace there. Just sitting and vegging out while the kids were pretty much hanging off the overhead lighting fixture.

The kid we went to play with is a full year younger than Klara but Klara still loves playing with her because the girl is very developed. She has a great vocabulary and understands all of Klara’s games. Which again goes to show that people who are class snobs are idiots.

I think it’s reading Lucy Ellmann that’s making me ramble. Maybe I should make an evening ramble post a new blog tradition.

Praise for Zelensky

I felt about the election of Ukraine’s new president Zelensky in the same way as the most passionate anti-Trumper felt about the election of Trump.

But I don’t feel about his presidency like anti-Trumpers feel about the Trump presidency. I very much want Zelensky to prove me wrong and be a fantastic, quick-ass president. Having to confess that I was a dick and misjudged him will be a pleasure because what’s my pride compared to the well-being of forty million Ukrainians?

So I’m happy to say that after reading the famous transcript I like Zelensky more than before. As we say in my culture, he stuck his pride deep inside his anal cavity and begged, cajoled, flattered and debased himself exactly in the way you have to in order to talk to Trump. From what I know about him, it must have been very very hard. But he put his country first, and in my book, that’s big.

What I don’t like is that the transcript was made public, which Zelensky wasn’t counting on, and now Russians are going nuts with joy that he has humiliated himself like that. This will make things so much harder for him and, consequently, for Ukraine.

I understand that Americans don’t care about Ukraine. I also acknowledge that they don’t have to care, and the US is already doing a lot, so nobody should ask for more. But I do cringe at the self-righteous moaning about how Trump used the desperation of a vulnerable, weak country to advance some pathetic vanity goal of his. Because so did his opponents. The only difference is that the opponents put Zelensky’s humiliation on display. Those javelins he’s begging to buy are literally a matter of life and death. At least, Trump is giving the javelins (which Obama didn’t in spite of being directed to do so by the Congress). Beggars can’t be choosers, so I guess, get your own javelins if you are too proud to beg. But there’s no moral superiority here on the anti-Trumper side.

Funny in Russia

Right before the UN assembly, the US refused to extend visas to 10 Russian diplomats, one of whom has been accused (with a mountain of recorded proof) of egregious instances of sexual harassment of many women. I’m not saying he was denied a visa because of that, obviously. I’m saying I’m happy the jerk had to pay even in such oblique way for his despicable actions.

In retaliation, the Russian government threatened the US. . . with not letting the US conduct the green card lottery in Russia. According to Russians’ logic, it’s a great punishment to the US to prevent it from getting more immigrants from Russia.

They really seriously believe this stuff. These are painfully stupid people.

Wokester Scholarship

It’s scary how much scholarship in literary criticism is obsessed with transmitting one not very profound idea: this work of literature sucks because the author is not woke enough. Then, a list of the author’s sins against wokesterism is triumphantly produced in evidence. It’s particularly cute when the author in question died in 1680 but it’s not much better with living authors.

I was cured of the desire to do this kind of scholarship back in grad school when a professor heard my list of wokester complaints against an author and said, “how interesting. Maybe you should send this writer a letter and teach him how to write better.” The author in question was mega-famous and ultra-talented, so I did have the lucidity to understand I was making an ass out of myself.

Bare Life

This is the best way of explaining what’s wrong with totalitarianism:

Such abdication grinds down the ideologically obedient citizen, because it reduces life to a purely material existence, in which moral integrity and human dignity must be sacrificed in order to keep the state off one’s back and oneself in a job.

Totalitarianism, which by the way does not operate through threats of physical violence in many, possibly most, cases, “reduces life to a purely material existence.” It takes away from people what makes them people. This is precisely what drove me crazy in the USSR where my “bare life” was under no threat. This is precisely what horrified me in Cuba. It’s also exactly what Zuboff is freaked out about. And what Kevin Williamson’s recent book discusses.

It’s very hard, for a reason I can’t fully comprehend, to explain to people that “bare life” – a physical existence of the body, even a very comfortable one – is not really life. It was the same in the USSR. Most people very sincerely didn’t understand what the problem was. They still pine for the Soviet times when they could vegetate and never become fully human.