I am now vaccinated with J&J. My sister asked me how I feel, and I said, “I feel like a citizen.” And it’s not a heartening thought that one should undergo unwanted medical procedures to feel like a citizen.

On the positive side, in my search of a pharmacy that still has J&J, I had to drive into our rural areas and chanced upon a delightful little diner. Excellent food and a soccer game on the TV screen. Why soccer in rural Illinois? Nobody knows. But the roast beef sandwich was the best I’ve ever had.

Let’s Talk about Language and Literature: New Video

Today I attended an event with the noted Ukrainian writer Volodymyr Rafeyenko, and it was amazing. Rafeyenko’s most famous novel has recently been translated into English, so it doesn’t have to be a situation where everybody asks me if they can read it in English and I have to say no.

I’m very excited about this new video because 1) I’m wearing a new outfit and 2) I’m talking about the topic that animates me like no other, and that is literature. The video is about the concept of ‘a sacred crime’ that lies at the core of the Russian culture and manifests itself in the horrors we are seeing Russians perpetrate in Ukraine today. It’s also about switching to a different language in adulthood and what the word ‘mondegreen’ means.

Please share your mondegreens in the comments.

The Power of Art

Yesterday I went to the concert of our student choir that was dedicated to Ukraine. On the positive side, I now have a new hobby which is choral music. It was beautiful, beautiful singing. All songs were Christian and one Hebrew. A friend who sat behind me kept whispering into my ear, “Too much religion! Why do we need so much religion?” But then the choir sang in German, and she liked that because she’s a German-speaker.

On the negative side, like a total idiot I sat in the front row. A Ukrainian colleague gave a beautiful speech about Ukraine. It was about a million times better than any speech I’ve ever given, so I’m glad they didn’t ask me to speak. It was all going well but then a gigantic screen rolled down, and as the choir sang “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” images of the destruction in Ukraine started appearing. And I’m sitting right there, alone in the front row, dressed like an Easter paska.

I’m not usually given to public displays of grief but the images of the war, plus the news of my father’s diagnosis, it all kind of came together, and I had a fit of hysterics. The poor students who were singing must have never expected their art to have quite that big of an effect. I tried to avoid blubbing and gurgling too loudly but it was still embarrassing. Thankfully, one of the singers ended one of the songs with a loud sneeze which made me feel vindicated. I might have wept in public but at least I always maintain that “hosannah in the highest” is nothing to sneeze at.

After the performance, I went to thank the director of the choir who looked at me like I was a maniac until I explained that I’m from Ukraine.

“Oh, thank God,” she said. “I mean, that really makes sense now.”

This is supposed to be a funny post. Unlike the singers, I aim to elicit laughter with my art.