Archive for June, 2008

A death foretold

The mantra of the managing classes in the age of globalization is to make your job unable to be outsourced or performed by machines. By electing its presidents with huge majorities in every election Russians have made the results of those elections like those that easily can be and generally only are obtained by massive voter fraud. As long as 70% of them are going to continue to rubber-stamp the ruling cabal in every election, they might as well go back to fraud instead of taking the time and trouble to count the actual ballots. In this respect the voters have turned themselves into unreliable, inferior substitutes with short attention spans of the secret police.

Which is why even if the elections have been genuine and honest I would still say, as I will say, that the woman in whose apartment I am now living turns out to be one of the last Russian democrats. On my first memorable evening in St. Petersburg, while she was showing me around, she smoothly segued in about two sentences from showing me how the TV worked, to commenting that it was all garbage anyway because Russia has no free press, to declaring that Russia is a fascist dictatorship. She also said that she marches in the pro-democracy protests and at least claims to be a friend of Garry Kasparov, although perhaps just spiritually or in the sense of political affiliation. Maybe she can see which direction the wind is blowing, since she somewhat looks like and has decorated her apartment like a fortune-teller. But as Bob Dylan would say, in Russia today it doesn’t take a weatherman. Or maybe it’s some form of rebellion against her mother, who sits in the living room watching TV all hours of the day and night while proclaiming that it is all an expression of corrupt, decadent Western culture that is going to cause World War III.

In any case, my host has made me see that there is something admirable in a place like this in such a cause like democracy that might be worth fighting and even dying for, but I find it almost impossible to connect the concept as it exists and in what it signifies for her with the numbskull popularity contests that go by the name of elections in America. I suppose it’s like in apartments, where someone’s roof is always someone else’s floor. I might well take to the streets on the American system’s behalf if it came to a clear contest with something like the Russian, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to waste my time trying to choose between the vying marketing strategies in which candidates constantly cloak themselves and which serve to conceal any pertinent truths that people might delude themselves into believing that they’ve learned about them. In this respect our elections are inferior even to the Pepsi challenge. Especially since I probably stand less chance to influence the political system by casting the decisive vote in a presidential election than, as a grad. student in literature, by personally coming to power in a military coup. But in any case, even as Russian democracy is dying with little mourning, or at least being shorn of any of the good graces that might make it respectable, this strange woman with the heart of a flood wall has my full attention.

links for 2008-06-12

New York, part II

Money can buy strange things. When it comes to, for example, the public beach near Brooklyn that a friend and I visited on Saturday which is accessible by subway and free to the public, as compared to the beach a little further away that we visited on Sunday and that requires taking the Long Island suburban train and paying a surprisingly high entrance fee, a mere $22 may not be enough to buy a police helicopter but it is enough to buy the absence of a police helicopter constantly canvassing the beach, as well as a remarkable instantaneous skin-lightening procedure for the other beach-goers.

Of course money can’t buy everything. But with even less, in fact with the mere effortless fact of being born you can apparently gain the infinite self-satisfaction with which an obese old woman this very morning at the table next to us in a café while we were sitting down interrogated us, with absolutely no preface and before my lowering body had even reached the chair: “You’re not from New York, are you?” To which I wanted to reply: “No, which is what guarantees that I’ve traveled more than two blocks from home in my life.” But then again, if you antagonize old women the world is never on your side.

The city is such a thunderous furnace of barely contained chaos, it’s no wonder it’s been so hot the last couple of days that it almost seems like the weather gods’ contribution to the atmosphere for the Puerto Rican National Day parade. I was envious of the guy covered only in flour and a loincloth that we saw in Williamsburg one night who came staggering out of a bar where the band which he seemed to be associated with was playing and started performing some sort of cataleptic dance on the sidewalk. Then again, for me to pull off all my clothes like that would have required some sort of justification as performance art, which seems to throw a burka-like veil of respectability over all forms of public nudity. As my friend said, “Even though they may not have any particular merit, I’m sort of glad that things like that happen here.” Which probably sums up the American public’s attitude towards its arts scene, and maybe to New York as a whole, as well as anything can.

New York, part I

“What a city, right? 18 million people with six degrees or less of separation by coughing.”

“Maybe that’s why the buildings are all so ugly, like they’re not ultimately here for our benefit. After all, the fences of a cattle pen don’t need to be pretty either.”

“What makes them allow themselves to be herded in so docilely? Maybe the cattle already inside denigrate the open range as ‘sprawl.'”

“We’re really below the level of cattle though, since we’re choosing to pack ourselves in. Speaking of which, how are we going to afford living here? I heard the city has a rent control policy to keep prices down, but that none of the apartments in the city are cheap enough to qualify.”

“I suppose we could always share a bed to save money.”

“Yeah, nice one. So to save valuable tongue space shall we just make out all the time too?”