Foreigners in USSR: A collection of links
- The Myth of the Soviet Potemkin village, by Michael David-Fox
An article (with photos) on an exhibition about Jan Palach’s funeral in Prague.
A British video news report on Jan Palach’s funeral.
In 1975, Hedrick Smith wrote a great article for the New York Times Magazine on the Soviet culture of hiding information and its consequences for ordinary people.
Steven Shapin in The New Yorker on cholera and John Snow’s use of maps to end the 1848 outbreak in SoHo, London.
Keith Gessen’s New Yorker article on Brodsky is superb. Here’s a taste:
He failed to see that the social changes that made his poetry resonant in Russian had obviated just this kind of poetry in the States. Writing about his generation of idealistic Russians, he put it best: “Hopelessly cut off from the rest of the world, they thought that at least that world was like themselves; now they know that it is like the others, only better dressed.
Here’s a lovely article about naturalization that brings back some memories. To be fair, when I took the citizenship test (at 19), my examiner accepted my smart aleck, hyper correct answers that didn’t always match the book. I got the question about who makes the laws in the US and offered an elaborate spiel of an explanation. I think I may have not only described the role of the President in signing and vetoing, but also delved into the topic of Congressional committees. I mean, when else was I ever going to use all that AP US History knowledge? (The official answer to the question has one word: “Congress.”)
My examiner was a stylish middle-aged woman with a slight Spanish accent. She listened to me, looking quite bemused, accepted the answer, and then responded by asking my wise gal teenage self the hardest questions in the book for the exam’s remainder.
The woman’s next appointment was my mother, and the officer was extra nice to her. Apparently, half an hour with me had made her quite sympathetic…
This set of photos of Moscow in 1909 is incredible.
Eric Ripert’s New Knife Case
Ripert flipped through a book of leather designs and nixed the Louis Vuitton logo. “It’s a little over the top,” he said. “Like, ‘This guy’s coming to cut fish!’ ”
The New Yorker article about Eric Ripert’s new knife case is charming and pairs well with the set of photos he himself posted on Facebook.
Research Diary: Soviet cars
To be honest, as I tried to figure out what the Volga looked like in 1970, I half expected it to look just like it did when I was a kid in the 1980s. So what I found was a little surprising.
BEHOLD: a souped up Volga manufactured in the 1960s especially for the KGB.
Links for the week of March 8th, 2010, featuring DFW, Jane Austen Amazon reviews, a literary mystery, and a search for a lost home in Ukraine.
A Bedtime Story (courtesy of Bob Taylor)
This bedtime story comes to you courtesy of a talk at UT Austin by Bob Taylor.
On the last day of a three-day retreat for the top people at Xerox, Bob Taylor was asked to show the men the products of his Xerox PARC research team’s labors. And so he put on the stage the Alto, the first personal computer. The mouse, the Ethernet cord, an email system, a graphic display, and a laser printer were all attached–all in use at the Xerox PARC laboratories for some years by then and all shown to the men responsible for the future of the Xerox Corporation. It was the 1970s.
The presentation was followed by an opportunity for all of these titans of industry to test out the goods themselves, in an exhibition hall with little booths set up with the equipment. The men all stood around the periphery and chatted. The only people who approached the researchers’ tables were the businessmen’s wives. In Taylor’s account, the ladies had a grand time of playing with the gadgets.
Looking back, Taylor thinks that the man-repellents in his exhibits were the keyboards.* At the time, men didn’t type. Their secretaries did that. And many of the wives had come from the secretarial pool.
Which is perhaps why you did not buy your screen, your laptop, your Ethernet cable, your Internet service, and your mouse from Xerox. And why, in some alternate reality, Xerox is the largest company in the world and the dictionary entry for the word “xerox” continues for several pages.
* Alternative explanation: not enough lolcats.
I have ideas for you, blog. Because I have them all the time, J is used to them. In fact, he thinks that the only blog I have a chance of keeping is a blog of blog ideas.
Of course, as always with new online projects, what I want first is a new theme and a new domain name. My plans for pimpin’ my new web projects always precede plans for executions. Perhaps this explains why my sites usually see more theme changes than posts.
Now, in the same conversation where they go on at length about new revenue models and guerrilla tactics, marketing types mention that for an artist, a web presence should build name recognition. We all know of course that what I have is not a web presence but a web absence. What this blog here should be called is Waiting for Kolendo.
The point is that I’m coming around to the idea that my name, my real, phone-book-findable name, should have a starring role in my web adventures (or lack thereof) since I think–now that I finally no longer get carded when buying tickets to R-rated movies–I’m finally safe from being stalked by another pedophile.*
Which I suppose poses the question of which name to use. At my mother’s, I’m still Nastia Kolendo but no one else I know can pronounce it. Anastasia Kolendo is on diplomas and IDs, though I prevent so many mispronunciations nowadays by introducing myself as Ana that I should get a Crimestoppers Badge of Merit. And Anastasia is such a feminine name. I feel like people who have just the name to go on expect 5 o’clock tea involving cozies and forest creatures who come to braid my hair.
Surprisingly, for years, kolendo.com, kolendo.net, and kolendo.org were all taken. Though go-daddy, my former web host and registrar, of course suggested brilliant alternatives–like mysexykolendo.com.
Luckily, the inability to keep a blog seems to be genetic. The guy who used to own kolendo.com must have gotten tired of paying for hosting for an error page he had parked here for a few years, so now it’s my turn to do the same.
* For those of you who haven’t heard the story, don’t worry. My pedophile was shy. After finding my address in the white pages, he dropped by unannounced to ask me “to go steady.” There were no attempts at inappropriate touching, though my parents will forever assume his behavior to be typical of American men.
On Style: quotes
[Good style] is an intimate and almost involuntary expression of the personality of the writer, and then only if the writer’s personality is worth expressing. –Bertrand Russell
Write, and after you have attained some control over the instrument, you write yourself down whether you will or no. There is no vice, however unconscious, not virtue, however shy, no touch of meanness or generosity in your character that will not pass onto the paper. –Sir Walter Raleigh.
Both quotes included among the hundreds collected in Ben Yagoda’s The Sound on the Page.
Your Friday Moment of Zen: ‘tellectuals
Is it bad that some of this dialogue sounds like something I’ve recently written?
Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Blue Flower
This is the first book in a long while to leave me speechless. I don't know anything about it, except that I liked it. Fitzgerald has charmed me out of my need to dissect every piece of writing into intelligible little pieces. It seems only fitting--Romanticists like Novalis were in some measure reacting against rationality.
Ostensibly, the story is about love. But part of Novalis's legacy to the world is Liebesreligion, "the religion of love," and it's unsurprising then that here talking about love entails discussing everything. Underneath the dainty peak of Fitzgerald's beautiful, breezy prose sits an iceberg of wit, philosophy, and impeccable grasp of history. In the end, The Blue Flower is the most awesomely strange novel I've read all year, and the originality doesn't even seem to be the primary intent.