Thu Jun 19th, 2008 at 06:19:34 PM EST
Contents: Global War on Mediocrity; Kasparov attacked by flying pe... wait, I don't think I can post that above the fold, never mind; Pet Weddings; Singing Piranhas; The Sexies ... and much much more!
This is officially sucking.
Term limits and democratic elections have robbed us of a highly entertaining Russian President. Sexism and term limits have robbed us of a highly entertaining US election. Capitalism and audits have robbed us of a highly entertaining and sexist newspaper. It's so ironic, Alanis. We live in a period when freedom of speech is more widely enjoyed than perhaps at any previous point in human history, and yet no one will say anything remarkably intelligent or witty for fear of being labelled something. Like in Junior High. Mass culture has become one endless bore-a-thon. Never before have humans had the ability to communicate provocative and insightful ideas to such a vast audience, with so little interference. And yet we are content to post commentary on our choice of breakfast cereal or pictures of our cats. At no point in history have we possessed more scientific knowledge about the universe, but we are nevertheless certain that if we say something one shade more intense than beige the earth will spin right off its axis. Which would be pretty interesting, if that were to actually happen. Which is why we try so desperately to avoid it.
I'm inventing a new philosophical theory. It goes like this: There exists a threshold at which the mediocre becomes too mediocre to warrant or inspire satire. The increasing absence of satire limits the opportunity for self-reflection. The increasing absence of self-reflection leaves the prevailing mediocrity unchecked. Mediocrity, unchecked, persists and grows like a cancer. The end result for the human race, were it to get caught in this social trap, could be something like what happened to the dinosaurs. Only much much less interesting.
I am declaring a GWOMB: Global War on Mediocrity/Boringness. You can join my coalition of the willing. You don't have to kill people who don't look like you or lie to the public. You just have to say something brilliant. You can do that.
Jesus. I hate-love it when this happens. Remember when I was talking about the eerie, satisfying, deflating experience of learning that your own thoughts were previously thought by someone else (the ancient Greeks, Marx, Sartre, ...Matt Taibbi)? It's happened again.
The general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind. ~John Stuart Mill.
Either I am as brilliant as John Stuart Mill, or I retained more from that Ethics 101 class than my professor was able to appreciate at the time. Omg, I'm mediocre in my own anti-mediocritism! Oh well. You can still join my war. Which will begin at the time of my choosing. But not before I post the following practice in unabashed mediocrity.
I. This Week in the End of Civilization
Normally I'd have something fabulous in this space. Like a feature story from The eXile or Sean's Russia Blog. Normally The eXile would have something to say besides, "Oh fuck! Give us some money, the Russians are after us! Help!" and Sean would have something to say besides, "Here's the latest update on the 'Oh fuck! Give us some money, the Russians are after us! Help!' eXile story." And I would not have just posted a huge diary regurgitating Mark and Sean and commenting on what I see in the regurgitation. Or I'd post a Stephen Cohen "New Cold War" article here. Make that the Stephen Cohen "New Cold War" article. Or some gruesome drawing and quartering of Ed Lucas. Fedia's latest : The Latvian Truth about Edward Lucas is the closest thing I can find to this, and it's not even that impressive. It's not even haranguing Lucas. It's haranguing a Latvian. I could point you to Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone piece about John McCain. Even though it is not about Russia, and McCain is the virtual Monarch of Mediocrity. At least Matt's not freaking out and demanding money from us. On the other hand, the downside of not being a journalist in a country where the government could have you killed is that you're relegated to covering an relatively unexciting country. And frankly, there is no guarantee someone is not out to get Taibbi. There probably is, probably some pocky boring conservative who must admit that all the lobbyist kickbacks in the universe will never give him the biceps and wit of Vovochka. At least Mark Ames's enemies are interesting.
So we'll skip important news and wise commentary and go straight to those silly stories usually saved for the bottom of the Odds & Ends. Because that's what happens in a Mediocracy. The dredges rise to the top.
Reuters: Sometimes it rains cement
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian air force planes dropped a 25-kg (55-lb) sack of cement on a suburban Moscow home last week while seeding clouds to prevent rain from spoiling a holiday, Russian media said on Tuesday.
"A pack of cement used in creating ... good weather in the capital region ... failed to pulverise completely at high altitude and fell on the roof of a house, making a hole about 80-100 cm (2.5-3 ft)," police in Naro-Fominsk told agency RIA-Novosti.
Ahead of major public holidays the Russian Air Force often dispatches up to 12 cargo planes carrying loads of silver iodide, liquid nitrogen and cement powder to seed clouds above Moscow and empty the skies of moisture.
A spokesman for the Russian Air Force refused to comment.
June 12 was Russia Day, a patriotic holiday celebrating the country's independence after the break-up of the Soviet Union.
Weather specialists said the cement's failure to turn to powder was the first hiccup in 20 years.
The homeowner was not injured, but refused an offer of 50,000 roubles (1,050 pounds) from the air force, saying she would sue for damages and compensation for moral suffering, Interfax said.
I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often. They are always messing with the weather over there. I wish Daley would pay them to come over here and mess with our terrible weather. That's American fascism for you: Don't let the people know you can control the weather. Make them think it's a punishment from God.
Sydney Morning Herald: Kremlin critic gets genital reminder about who's in charge
Former world chess champion turned Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov has been on the receiving end of an unconventional prank launched by his political foes - one that draws its inspiration from the virtual world of Second Life.
Kasparov was attending a weekend meeting of a coalition of opposition groups which had assembled in Moscow to launch a symbolic alternative parliament. As he was addressing the gathering of more than 500 delegates, he was buzzed by a remote-controlled flying phallus.
The device - which appeared to be a modified twin-rotor toy helicopter - caused an sudden commotion with security guards springing to attention.
A video shot at the event shows the modified chopper briefly evading capture before a man later identified as a security guard leaps from the stage and swats the device with a well-aimed left hook.
According to the Moscow Times website, the prank was staged by "a couple of pro-Kremlin Young Russia activists" who had launched a "plastic phallus on propellers".
Those crazy kids are at it again...
[I have to tip my hat to ceebs for this one. And gen(?)tly apologize. But good god. Everyone: keep in mind that I often open my e-mail at work. That's all I ask. No anatomy in the e-mail, please. This isn't a doctor's office. Poniatno?]
BBC: Lithuanian ban on Soviet symbols
Lithuania's parliament has passed the toughest restrictions anywhere in the former Soviet Union on the public display of Soviet and Nazi symbols.
It will now be an offence in the Baltic state to display the images of Soviet and Nazi leaders.
This includes flags, emblems and badges carrying insignia, such as the hammer and sickle or swastika.
Correspondents say equating Soviet and Nazi symbols in this way is certain to infuriate Russia.
The new law also prohibits the Nazi and Soviet national anthems but does not specify if this extends to the modern-day Russian national anthem, which uses the Soviet music with different lyrics.
Nothing celebrates freedom from totalitarianism like a good banning, wouldn't you agree?
II. The Right to Marry
I am obsessed with pet weddings.
I am not an advocate for marriage among humans. Though I do support the rights of those in the GLBT community to marry, because I am an egalitarian. Why should only heterosexuals suffer harassment from their mothers about getting married before you are old and too ugly and no one wants you? Why should only heterosexuals be expected to endure that roller coaster of unrealistic expectations? Why should only heterosexuals' friends have to be victims of dressmakers favor flouncy pastels? Why should only heterosexuals get a house full of appliances when they hook up? Spread the wealth. Please.
It's not that I extend this bitterness to small furry animals. Though I do think animals should have basically the same rights as humans, only like children, because we are their caretakers. But you wouldn't marry your children off. Why would you marry off your cat? Wtf? No, I think I am enchanted with the idea of pet weddings because seeing those wretched animals lured into those staged events exposes the charade for what it is. We're animals too. And we look just as ridiculous when we do it. We're not fooling anyone. And yet I cannot shake the feeling that the animals are kind of enjoying it. Everyone is paying attention to them and wanting them to be eternally happy and never alone.
Also, it is insanely fun to see animals dressed up in wedding attire, all confused and full of anticipation!
So, imagine my delight at the spate of recent news items on this fascinating topic:
Chicago Tribune: You know your pets really want to get married, right?
I found Scott's name in a recent, and terrifying, news report on the American pet wedding phenomenon. Americans spend $40 billion a year on their pets, and the pet wedding industry wants its cut. There are fees for clerics to say the rites and blessings, and black tuxedos for four-legged grooms, and cakes and caterers, and beaded satin wedding gowns.
"Your little bride will be so beautiful walking down the aisle wearing this elegant, fully-lined white satin and lace wedding gown set," promises one pet wedding Web site I won't name in the hopes of staving off damnation. "The six layers of tulle can be separated to make this beautiful wedding veil very full and elegant. This set also includes a matching white satin leash."
Another dog wedding Web Site, for My Uptown Pooch, offers beaded wedding gowns for up to $10,000, tips for measuring for dog couture and also offers these suggestions:
1) Call where the ceremony will be held to be sure that your dog will be allowed. 2) Have someone standing by, in the event your dog needs to leave the ceremony. 3) Realize there is a lot of activity at a reception. Maybe your dog should be taken home where he or she can settle down. You don't want him/her trampled at the reception while everyone is dancing. 4) Do you want your dog to match your maid of honors [sic] dress or bridesmaids?
Remember when Americans were asking why Islamofascists hate us so much? Now you know.
"Marriage for an animal is almost like marriage for a human," Scott was quoted as saying in the pet wedding article. "An animal union is more like a blessing under God."
I'm always on the lookout for another sign of the Apocalypse. The last one involved reports of Americans craving $400 per pound gourmet coffee beans from the behind of a cat. Now dog unions are considered blessed events.
"Yes, an animal union is a blessing," Scott told me. "It is."
"Well, I am a reverend," Scott said. "If you're in a family with two animals and they want to unite in a wedding, what difference does it make? It is not a sign of the Apocalypse. It is a sign that animals often seek to form a lasting bond and have deep commitment."
When I was a kid, we owned a male cocker spaniel. He formed a lasting bond with a vinyl beanbag chair in the basement--nobody dared ever sit in it--but at least he had the decency not to propose marriage. But I didn't have the heart to tell Scott.
Here's a picture of my bad cat, Bella Piccolina:
She's going to have a hard time finding a husband with that type of behavior. That behavior, and the fact that she's been spayed and lives indoors. It's comforting to know there is one bachelorette in this city less eligible than I.
RIA Novosti: Cat wedding nearly separates Egyptian couple
CAIRO, May 14 (RIA Novosti) - An Egyptian woman filed for divorce after her husband refused to pay for the wedding of her favorite cat in a five-star hotel, national media said on Wednesday.
The young woman, named only as Khadiga, had begged her husband, some 50 years her senior, to pay for her cat's wedding. Her husband refused and Khadiga filed for divorce.
However, in court, her husband said he would agree to a divorce, but his last present to his wife would be a wedding for her cat, albeit one in a less expensive hotel owned by his friend.
The woman promptly forgave her husband and called off divorce proceedings. The cat is now preparing to be wed.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the most expensive cat wedding took place at a disco in Thailand. The owner of a very pampered cat paid over $16,000 to organize the event.
Spending anything over $20 on the betrothal of your Bichon Frisé would strike most people as sinful. Not because the Bible says Adam and Eve and not Fido and Fifi. But because there are starving people in the world. How many children could we feed for $16,000? Of course, no one winces when thousands of dollars are spent on a human wedding. Nothing sinful about that. Even those hungry kids will agree that's all perfectly ethical. Because it's what God desires. If God wanted other animals to have expensive weddings, he would have given them money. Duh. Oh speaking of sins:
Onion: Kentucky Legislature Bans Gay Pet Weddings
III. The Earth's Blogosphere
Now and then I like to draw your attention to some blog or other I have recently fallen in love with or bookmarked as a passing fancy. I really wish we could have our own personal blogrolls at ET, as at Daily Kos. Who's in charge around here? I demand to speak with the manager! And a complimentary latte for my inconvenience!! Sigh. Until the day (or night - you can never be sure...) when I launch a successful hostile takeover and bring power to the people, mentioning these little gems in a diary will have to suffice.
Blog: Far From Moscow
This portal, designed to showcase new music from Russia, is hosted by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Los Angeles . It is administered and edited by David MacFadyen.
Interest in Russian popular music has exploded over the last few years, and not just in the genres of electronica or dance music. These two styles are logical candidates for overseas success, since they typically lack lyrics. Nonetheless, other types of songwriting are starting to enjoy renown, all the way from folkish elements (as celebrated annually by London's Winter Festival) to the more experimental, guitar-driven ensembles that draw upon post-punk traditions of the US and UK.
These assorted directions, old and new, acoustic and electronic are developing in two particular ways. Firstly, the role of the internet here is vital. Russia is, after all, the world's biggest country. Digital culture helps enormously to overcome the problems caused by vast distances and tiny budgets.
There is a related problem, however: how to attract public attention once the work has been uploaded. The re-centralization of major Russian media, together with problems of payola and piracy around commercial outlets simply make it harder for small-scale, innovative artists to establish recognizable venues. If we were to trawl the pages of You Tube and My Space, we would find a great deal of valuable material from Russia, but knowing where to look is hellishly tricky. The tiny clusters of "friendly" pages around a performer's entry on My Space, for example, establish the first step towards maintaining a presence, but the sheer numbers of worldwide projects hosted by these portals mean that Russian artists vanish in the crowd.
The fact that handheld media and "over-the-air" technologies are developing with equal speed in Russia, especially in oil-rich, far-flung regions such as Siberia, means that the distance between wealthy and impoverished venues is diminishing: the gap between national television and private laptops or cellphones is collapsing. Innovation and conservatism are falling into the same space; this portal aims to do them both justice, with maximum enthusiasm and minimum snobbery. No other place online showcases the most popular art form of the world's biggest country.
If you are into music, I highly recommend bookmarking this site. It is updated daily, highlights a wide array of genres, from techno to folk, jazz to rap and is impressive without being intimidating to someone like me who has no background in these things. And best of all, for those who do not speak Russian, much of the music profiled is either instrumental/electronic or in English. And quite nice.
Uhm, and some of it is not so much "nice" as it is "not nice and so totally strange it could only have come from Russia." Like Sasha Shla, a bitter cartoon piranha:
A little over a month ago, we debuted a video starring Sashla Shla, a female piranha(....) who lays claim to being Russia's first virtual performer. The album has now been released, together with extra animation and some priceless audio. Below is a cartoon version of one track, "Narod abrzel" (Them People Is Mad), about "everything that bugs an old lady." From an insistent and pushy drum loop, we then hear the pensioner's outbursts orchestrated to explosions of D&B. The volume grows and chaos looms larger.
Well, I can't figure out how to link to individual tracks at this site, but all of the artists featured have links on the front page, so give it a click and check it out!
Awards: The Sexies (via Scienceblogs)
More often than not, sex seems to fall outside of the media's standards for objectivity and fairness: The spectrum of sex-education opinions is assumed to run from abstinence-only to abstinence-primarily. Science-based information on sex, sexuality, and the diversity of human sexual practices is lacking, and sometimes misleading conventional wisdom is reinforced. A man in a court case who participates in BDSM is described as having "unsavory habits" and a professional domme is described as an "admitted" dominatrix. No sources are sought to counter the government officials who proudly describe how they are manipulating local ordinances to shut down a sex toy store or a venue that hosts "swingers" parties. Stories that treat sexuality as something other than a problem or prurient curiosity are few and far between.
A complete list of the winners of the Sex Positive Journalism Award (The Sexies)
Coincidentally (maybe), my evangelical Christian friend has decided to start blogging about sex today. Glasses off: Coup d'oeil: sex edition. Maybe she's lining herself up for an award? She's a serious over-achiever like that. "Coup d'oeil." She thinks that if she writes it in in French, it is not plagiarism of "Odds & Ends." I suppose she's correct. She would know, as she is a lawyer with a degree from Harvard. And before you assume that her mad religious fervor means that she is not tolerant of others, keep the following in mind: She remains my friend. Of course, she's not read this diary just yet, probably. I'm testing her. I'm actually thinking about going into the "Testing Christians" business full-time. Why is this not a career option? Seems there's a huge market out there for this line of work. Anyway, she's blogging the Kamasutra and Sex and the City. Go have a look-see!
What's that? You came here looking for gratuitous praise of Putin and/or news about the fate of The eXile? oh. ok. :D
Beautiful Pro-Putin Propaganda. I'm only sorry I did not write it myself...
Yay! Good news for anyone paranoid enough to think Putin will close their newpaper for crimes against political incorrectness!
Make a donation, suckahs! Because being paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.
Ok, then. Let's call it a day shall we?
What's that? You came here looking for gratuitous photos of hot guys of Slavic origin? oh. ok. :D
That's Sasha Hemon, the world's most brilliant writer who happens to live right here in Chicago. Not "hot" exactly, but seriously cute in nerdy kind of way. Stay tuned for a diary about his work.
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely weekend/Solstice!