Tuesday, August 26, 2008

new weekend sort of a drag, new film found

my friday night was dead dead dead because the gf had another "bargain hunt" planned. this time we were driving to sarasota...but i could sort of get behind it because supposedly afterwards we were going to go to this really nice beach and get some daquiris and just fun in the sun and shit...sort of like we did a few months back. if you tell me friday night is dead and cannot be BOOZED, im going to be an upset boy...and if you tell me its because we have to drive to another town to go to garage sales, im going to be pissed... but if you tell me theres going to be beaches, bitches, bikinis and BOOZE, i will put up with it

the gf had the trip-tik thing going on again. i swear she had 11 different places marked, and we had to get down there by 10 to cruise all of them. uuugggghhhh. still it wasnt so bad. sarasota used to be a place for wealthy people to retire, and over the years as one wealthy neighborhood kind of gets crapped up, a new one springs up, so you can basically hop from neighborhood to neighborhood every couple of years as the old people in each one start dying off in groups

this makes me seem kinda sick, and i swear im not THAT guy. its just that this town really DOES have a lot of cool stuff on the cheap. i remember going into a local goodwill and finding four crystal champagne saucers (like the ones you see in movies about the 20s) marked at $10. i dont think anyone knew they were crystal. so guess what i drink my cristal out of now? hell yeah

i feel bad about the families who let this stuff go on the cheap. they miss out on a lot of the money value. their moms and pops probably kept the stuff out of sentimentality, but unless youre going to keep the things for the same reason, getting rid of really awesome plates or knife sets for pennies just because "you already have a knife set or some plates" is really dumb. if youre going to sell off everything about your mom, get something for it, for fucks sakes

so anyway, i was picking around this one sale in a house that was probably amazing 25 years ago. neighborhood isnt much anymore, and i know the gf knew that, because thats where you get some really great deals, and she was seriously bloodhounding all over the place. i bitch, but i have the complete Who, Floyd, Beatles (american releases) and Zep on vinyl because of these things. so they arent all bad. but like i say, iwas picking around, and i found this HUGE film canister

i saw it and wanted to buy it because
a. it was about twice as big as the old reels ive mostly seen, not like some family cassette or something, it looked like it had some movie junk in its movie trunk
b. it was 5 dollars and
c. it had a cool label
i didnt even expect it to have shit in it. but it did, so i picked it up. what the hell

the label was sort of yellowy but it looked like someone had written it with a typewriter with big ROMAN letters all in caps. just this cool looking SA-149B. or 186B. or something. im not looking at it now. i just remember the SA. i dont remember typewriters stamping that big, but i guess i dont remember a bunch because apparently this dude remembered everything, there was a STACK of boxes about four wide, six longh and about six high and they were just newspapers. i coulda had them for a buck, but it would have cost me about ten bucks just to drive them to a recycle bin

the gf kept poking around for basically forever. i got bored and actually found two really nice picture frames. i don't know why they were selling them actually, because you don't get these anymore. they look carved and totally serious. but i got them for five bucks, and thankfully that takes care of birthday presents for mom and grandma this year

the moral of the story is: LS, dont let this happen to you...set boundaries...the kid is already setting them for you. have limits. and GFK, if you ever wind up not being a sexless dork extraordinaire, dont let this happen to you either. im not worried about max...hes too drunk to get a girl pregnant

ill let you know about the film whenever i get it worked out. for now remember to get daquiris if you can. daquiris on the beach with your girl in a bikini is the way to go if you have to go shopping

Monday, August 11, 2008

Russia & Georgia (Will They Ever Hook Up?)

You asked, I felt like I should answer about Russia.

Also I'm going to preemptively head off any complaints about being eggheaded by saying you asked for this.

There are only two problems facing Russia, and they're Putin and indifference.

Let me tell you about the indifference. Right now, Russia is going through one of its biggest economic expansions ever. If not the biggest. (You don't even have to include the boost organized crime contributes to the economy, especially the pirating of western media.) And God help you if you don't report that condition favorably.

Since Putin took power, about 20 journalists have been killed in Russia. While that's not quite Columbia-level numbers, that's astronomical for a western European country. There's just no excuse for it. But a common thread running through the deaths and the spontaneous raids of radio and TV stations is that these people were following the money. The Putin regime has never really seemed to care if you report on their human rights abuses or their lack of transparency or the really boundless executive power. Once you get into the kleptocracy stuff — once you ask, "How many billions does Putin have in Swiss bank accounts due to just seizing energy companies?" — that's when you're going to get disappeared.

Because ultimately I don't think a lot of Russian citizens care too terribly much about a lack of transparency at the top. When America was doing all right economically, you probably couldn't find even 5 people in 10 who really gave much of a damn about unchecked executive power. Iraq or Katrina or tax cuts for the wealthy... sure, they might have cared about that. But the principle of balanced power and oversight of the executive is too abstract to care about.

Putin's a smart guy. It's the economy, stupid. He's kept people better off than they were under communism and under the panics of early democracy, and for that they repay him by not caring enough to ask the hard questions. "Who cares if he's a strongman? We have iPods."

It's also partially what happens, I think, when a people have almost zero experience with democracy and whose moments of freedom almost always couple with economic panics or social dislocation. Russian democracy was a messy business, and it hurt an awful lot of people because there were no built-in safety nets anymore. In the rush to tear down communism, they tore down the stuff that bailed out people in tough times, and the only people who knew how to build those safety nets only knew how to do it with a communist instruction manual.

So because freedom was so scary and uncertain, a lot of people treated it as "the time you steal everything not nailed down because you never knew when the next crisis would come and it would all disappear." But since that kind of cowboy capitalism creates crises and destabilizes the economy and social order, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. You want to get out of a crummy system, so you choose freedom; but freedom creates chaos and another kind of crummy system. So at some point you throw up your hands and say, "WE NEED ONE MAN TO SOLVE THIS, BECAUSE DEMOCRACY DOESN'T WORK!"

I think that's sort of what's happened in Russia. Historically they've always kind of see-sawed between flirting with more liberalism and then trusting in an iron-fisted figure to solve the problems facing them. To a certain extent, I think they looked at Putin and said, "You. Fix this." He did, and in response they turn a blind eye to many things.

One of those things is the sudden aggression toward neighbors. Georgia today. Ukraine and Belarus recently. To a certain extent, there are probably a lot of Russian citizens who enjoy this. After being down and out for the late 1980s and 1990s, it feels good to kick ass and be the big kid on the block again. (You know America loved Gulf War I for the same reasons: Vietnam was such a bummer. But now — we rule again!) But for the most part, this seems like Putin's thing.

You can take the KGB away from a man, but put him in charge of the country, and he'll just recreate it with a new name. Which he has. Putin's an unregenerate Chekist, and he's rebuilt the same spooky secret state apparatus he used to be a part of. And with that comes the aggression, because otherwise what's the point?

As to what that aggression means, I don't think it's part of a plan for global domination. As my namesake George Kennan pointed out in his famous Long Telegram, Soviet expansion post-WWII was really just a realization of all the 19th century land grabs the Russian Tsars pursued. It was this paranoid reach for security in the guise of a century-long national dream.

I don't think this aggression is as grand, but I think it indicates Putin and his band of Chekists are going back to the recent past. They want those satellite states that the USSR had. They want their old Socialist Republics back — Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus. They want to have the glory of the old Soviet dream back. Just without the communism and with the billions and billions of nakedly stolen petrochemical dollars and hijacking of private industries.

It's funny that we picked the name that we did for this place, because at the time, it couldn't have been more of a winking joke. The world wasn't really like that anymore. Now it seems prescient. The movement toward opacity, mendacity, ornate deceptions, arms increases, elective wars and wars-by-proxy — the sort of stuff we lived through in the Cold War — were all sort of coming back after 2001. But to take it seriously enough to call looking at it "Kremlinology" would have sounded like pretentious self-indulgence. Yet in just the last year, all those tendencies have ramped up to an absurd degree. It's not funny anymore. It's not even remotely funny.

And, at least in Russia's case, it looks like Putin and his joke of a picked successor will get away with it. In part because most of the people are too indifferent to really ask what's going on and challenge the responses they get. And in part because when people do do that, more of their bodies are dropping on St. Petersburg streets than Marlo Stanfield dropped on West Baltimore.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Из дневников Йона Тихого. Путешествие на интеропию.

beats me. again, i wish one of us spoke russian...feel a bit lost without the subtitles even though the gist is always apparent (capitalism bad). i just like the art...no great insight here, move along...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Robbery, American Style (Ограбление по-американски)

this cartoon is pretty amazing on a couple levels. first, just watch this thing and take in all the colors and lines (the music rules too)...its just a fucking stunning piece of work. second, its a piece of propaganda that could have just as easily been made by an american filmmaker in the 60s...the swaggering cowboy sheriff reminds me of William Klein's great but rarely seen flick Mr Freedom.

the action starts with a bank heist. the robber leads the cops on a wild chase, leaving dozens of bodies in his wake. a sheriff in classic western garb follows the whole pursuit from a safe distance, watching the thieves doublecross one another in a way that strangely reminds me of the first 5 minutes of the dark knight. eventually the money winds up in the hands of a femme fatale who soon meets her demise as well (after being trampled in a bizarre frenzy over a reverse striptease- just watch, it's odd-...probably has something to do with materialistic fetishism). the sheriff collects the loot and returns 'empty handed' to the bankers (looking a bit like mobsters of course) and tells them that the robbers got away.... apparently there are 2 other films in this trilogy, Robbery, French Style and Robbery, Italian Style...i'll see if they are on youtube too.

Friday, August 8, 2008

how do you explain the crisis in georgia? chatlogs, oh yeah i love chatlogs

e.c: is there a particular reason russia wants all these little states so badly? is it just because they dont want nato setting up bases in them?
GFK: That's a possibility. It could also just be their 19th century territorial ambitions all over again. there's a patter in Russian history where land = security, and maybe it's not even NATO but just a perceptual thing. I don't know. I don't think Putin really has a check on his desires right now either.
GFK: Honestly, I've just given up. That's it. That's the explanation.
e.c: i feel like culturally the east loves to be bossed around ... they really dont like changing leaders
e.c: every former eastern block resident i know who is over 30 talks about how awesome soviet radio was and they start singing these crazy folk songs about farming. i mean not everyone, but enough that it seemed weird. didnt these guys murder and oppress you? why miss that?
GFK: It could be rose-colored glasses. It also could be just not knowing what the struggles of political/economic freedom are. Russia's kind of gone back and forth throughout history. If you look at the course of Russian history, there's this constant see-saw between evil strongmen and slightly more democratizing and benevolent strongmen. You'd have good Tsars and oppressive Tsars, then democracy, then communist dictatorship, then democracy, then Putin's iron fist in a velvet glove.
e.c: its weird theres not more outrage about him inside russia right now, and the only explanation i can come up with is the same reason there arent demonstrations in the streets right now here. as pissed as people are about the government getting more powerful and more secret, theyre comfy for right now and still buying stereos
GFK: Yeah.
e.c: but thats got to be risky too. arent they a little too intertwined with the western economy to do this kind of thing? do they really have any leverage beside something stupid like nukes?
GFK: We've bankrupted ourselves of all moral capital in the world that basically this is just their way of saying, "Fuck it, try something." What the fuck are we supposed to say back to them anyway? "Don't invade other countries on flimsy pretexts"? Pfffffffffffffff!
e.c: i dont understand why they didnt just let them take the 2 breakaway regions.... arent they almost entirely populated with russian nationalists anyway?
GFK: Me neither, but nationalism's emotional. Even if there are more Russian nationalists than Georgian nationalists, it doesn't mean the Georgians are going to stop feeling they have rights. Look at all the Hungarians in Romania. They haven't lived in Hungary since 1919, but it USED to be Hungary, so screw the fact that they're outnumbered.
e.c.: i think itd be cool if one small town went to war against another small town over rezoning, but that wont happen. i guess its because it doesnt matter as much if the place you live is pretty much just as good as the place your neighbor lives. you cant imagine ft. lauderdale going to war with miami, but i think thats because no one could tell them apart in the first place