May 16 2022

To Move from Home into a Land Far Away

Piazza Navona, Roma, Italia

To Move from Home into a Land Far Away:
The Problem of Getting-by Without Getting Burned-out

Two interesting pieces I’ve recently address the topic of moving from one country to another to see better economic (employment) opportunities:

So, one from Canada, one from Ireland; but both a part of the former British Empire. (A third, related piece I read last week, concerns an Irish woman leaving London life and returning to Ireland):

These three pieces address the problem of “getting by without getting burned out” when living in an urban environment in the West.

Without undergoing severe asceticism and learning to be disciplined as a monk initiate, the struggle to survive persists. Whether one lives in Berlin, Toronto, Dublin, London, or New York, problems don’t go away just because one moves away; often you only exchange one matrix of conflicts for another.

These confessional pieces (told in different ways for different reasons) have stubbornly stuck to me today, probably because, especially for the past year, it has felt most apparent that the City of Austin intends to slowly push me out of its fabled limits.

And one day the city may succeed. And then where would I go? Not Dublin. Not Dallas.

Rónán Riordion went from Kerry to Berlin. But Berlin? It seems a little too close to Moscow for me to move there.

And some acquaintances have suggested Costa Rica, but like the piece where the Canadian comes to accepting the reality that moving to the United States might be best for its author Isen’s prospects, Costa seems like a nice place to retire to if one already has savings or already established steady revenue streams, but if one doesn’t have those foundations already laid, then….

Though I have often imagined myself to be a stubbier, clumsier version of Professor Henry “Indiana” Jones Jr. (for I used to be good at finding arrowheads on the family farm), I remain unsure whether I should start searching for “fortune and glory,” in either the heart of the jungles of Central America or the capital of the former Deutsche Reich. (Probably neither; not when it still seems like everyone else wants to come to Texas.) Yet, as my era (and home) in Austin will surely someday end, I may have little choice in the matter of where to go next.

Apr 30 2022

When Families Together Sing: The Cashes, the Statlers, and the Beatles

London - Georgian Apartments

When Families Together Sing: The Cashes, the Statlers, and the Beatles

Here are two songs about families singing together. The listener may notice that Johnny and June (with the Statler Brothers in the background) sing their song in first-person, while the Beatles sing theirs from a third-person point of view.

And from the Beatles:

Apr 29 2022

Breakfast at Audrey’s (Friday flamenco)

Piazza Navona, Roma, Italia

Breakfast at Audrey’s (Friday flamenco)

Let’s get ready for the weekend with some Hepburn heartburn:

Apr 27 2022

25 Years of Bookbread Left to Go

Piazza Navona, Roma, Italia

Bookbread has been around for about 10 years. Its author will be turning 41 this summer. The male ancestors in the author’s family tend not to live past 75. And there is much demographic data to suggest (just one among many American single-males have a 10-year drop in their life expectancy compared to their paired partners, or (even paired, or even single women). So we will try to continue for another 25. Then that’s it.

Apr 24 2022

“This Poor Nomad,” Or: Fist Fight at the Corona Corral





Actually, I missed the start of this story but heard it commenced around one o’clock in the afternoon when a nomad wisecracker drifted in from the street and, while wearing black stockings and slippers, began bothering a Jordanian bartender from the Corona Corral who’d been taking out a bag of trash.

This wisecracker demanded the Jordanian let him inside and that he be served drinks. The Jordanian said they weren’t open yet, but the nomad kept pleading to be let in and served because, the nomad claimed, he knew the bar owner, whom everyone called Saint Michael.

It’s unknown how long this engagement went on (minutes, seconds?) before it then evolved into something more than a shoving match––but maybe slightly less than full-on Fury vs. Wilder II––though it definitely qualified as a scuffle, and one with the nomad having tried (but also having failed) to make his way to his intended destination of the bar inside.


I showed up around 5:30 that afternoon, started sucking on Firemans #4, and listening while the Jordanian told me and the others everything that happened in Act I. His left eye looked a little puffy at the brow line, though not exactly red. (And this was just after that side of his brow had recovered from a months-long in-grown hair ordeal––likely caused by one of those of oddball hairs of an especially course nature that the hay farmers in Lampasas in the 1970s used to call hog peckers.)

And the Jordanian was still just all amped up from the adrenaline-inducing incident that’d occurred hours before, so he told the story especially fast, all while standing and shuffling on the balls of his feet. Indeed, like when Caesar (Gallic Wars II, xx) describes his desire when in battle “to be everywhere at once,” the Jordanian was behind the bar, outside the door to the bar, as well as busing the tables on the porch out back the entire time he relayed to us the earlier encounter.

He was telling us this story when he interrupted himself, “Hey, hey, hey, HEY!” because it turned out the nomad wisecracker had returned, and this time, as we could all now see, he’d clearly made it inside the door.

About two seconds later the Jordanian, another customer Virgil (a regular), along with Bald Clyde Barrow (another bartender) and Geoff Davies (the Welshman who books musical acts for the Corona Corral during SXSW)—had all group-hugged and removed the nomad through the front door without injury.

Outside everyone separated, with the guys standing by the door while the nomad in the parking lot began to yell at them. Then a second nomad––who really didn’t even look nomadic but was an obvious acquaintance of his nomadic wisecracker counterpart––pulled the yelling guy away by the shoulder, and they shuffled off to the gas station across the street.


Ten (?) minutes later, the nomad wisecracker came back from the gas station and started yelling again from the parking lot.

“Dolly,” asked Bald Clyde Barrow, “can you hand me my phone over there?” (for the record, I too am abundantly bald).

Dolly handed the phone to him.

“He keeps coming back; I gotta call cops now.”

By this time the nomad had disappeared, presumably back to the confines of the gas station, but Clyde had already dialed and was giving them the address.

“Hey all,” the Jordanian then announced aloud, “Virgil’s phone fell out of his pocket; cracked the screen when he was helping us just now. I feel bad, so … if anybody wants to chip in … we need 125 dollars,” he said as he grabbed one of the tip buckets from the bar.

“Here,” and, “Here you go,” say several patrons who immediately pitched in.

I checked my wallet. No cash. But what had happened so far had been strange and entertaining enough, so I went to the ATM-jukebox-combo across the barroom, extracted 20 dollars at a cost of $3.25, handed that 20-dollar bill to Brando (another bartender, and one who always wears a ballcap), and he gave me back four fives. I then took three of those fives and placed them in the tip bucket that was now being used as a collection plate at our Thursday afternoon church service there at the Corona Corral.

By this time a pair of cops had arrived in their Kevlar and nylon accoutrement. The Jordanian and Bald Clyde Barrow went to the parking lot to talk to them, and soon enough the nomad wisecracker had returned as well. So the cops took him aside and interviewed him too, and these interviews took about 20–25 minutes, enough time for me to finish my beer and begin another one.

Eventually, the Jordanian and Bald Clyde Barrow returned and resumed their places behind the bar. The cops then finished their conversation with the black-clad, slipper-shod nomad wisecracker. They declined to arrest the guy, and soon the nomad disappeared in the direction of the gas station.

The cops, meanwhile, then entered the Corona Corral but were quick not to walk up to the bar where we patrons sit. The Jordanian and Bald Clyde Barrow came back around from behind the bar to talk to them while we all shamelessly watched and listened to their verdict.

“Okay,” says the cop, “he says you,”––meaning what the nomad wisecracker said about the Jordanian, “called him every possible racist epitaph that can be grammatically constructed in our vernacular; he says he’s a friend of Saint Michael’s. Is Saint Michael the owner?”

“Yeah, the lease is in his name, and that includes the parking lot.”

“This guy says Saint Michael is his friend, and they’re drinking buddies––”

This was interrupted by some moderate chortling and “well’s….” before Clyde explained to the cop: “Yeah Saint Michael says a lot of people are his buddies, and a lot of them are. Saint Michael can sometimes make miracles happen, can sometimes overwhelm you if you’ve already had a few Firemans #4, so maybe the nomad and the saint had one good night together here once––”

“––Well, if he’s the owner, he’s the only one who can file a trespassing claim. We didn’t see it happen. He has his story, you yours. You wanna file assault charges against him since you claim he hit you, you can, but they won’t stick. You already know that but I’m obligated to say it anyway.”

“No, no charges,” says the Jordanian, still amped up and jumpy, “I just don’t want him coming back in here––”

“––Well,” interrupts the cop, “we don’t have video of what happened, like I said, we have his story and we have yours and is that really a fucking D. A. R. E. hat you’re wearing?”

It should be noted that the cop said some variant of “fuck” at about every third word in this entire conversation. He’d addressed the question to Brando with the ballcap. Brando, however, hadn’t even been speaking to the cops but had stayed behind the bar serving drinks. (And yes, he was wearing a mint flat-bill D. A. R. E. cap.)


So I went back to the bar the next night, and I sat in my spot, ‘cause I’m a real cornball George Wendt (but one without the curly hair), and soon I saw the Jordanian and complimented him for the absence of any apparent black-eyes.

Then I gathered from him and others that the nomad wisecracker had returned later the evening before––sometime after the cops left––and he and the Jordanian scuffled again, and again the cops showed up, and again, asked the Jordanian if he wanted to press charges, but again he declined. Then, even later that next evening, he told me he’d learned from the non-nomadic-looking fellow who was comrades with the nomad wisecracker that that trouble-maker’s daughter (age unknown) died a few weeks ago, and obviously this poor nomad had flipped his lid a few times over since then.

Later that next night Virgil showed up, and we all learned that he’d received enough donations to fix his phone––and he showed us how it was already repaired––all of which I thought was a nice ending to the whole, somewhat mundane but somewhat interesting, affair.

Apr 20 2022

Short Story Review: “Octopus” (2022) by Nathan Willis

Mortadella in Bologna, Italia


In Nathan Willis’s short story “Octopus” (Necessary Fiction, Feb. 16, 2022) the reader must confront randomness. There’s some seemingly radical juxtaposition going on, with words, images, and ideas focusing around octopi, the theatricals of choking in public, as well as hostage negotiation. But, overall, it also involves the notion that, while children may later remember specific moments and actions done by their parents, they rarely (even upon reflection in their own old age) understand why their parents did the things they did when they did them.

So “Octopus” is about the nostalgia (grown) children have for certain memories that involve them being with their parents. The mood of the story is contemplative, combined with a detached sympathy of the narrator toward his father—things that remind me of Nicole Nesca’s poem “What would Hemingway Say?” (Let It Bleed: Screamin’ Skull Press, 2017, p. 1), as when she writes:

I never tried to be my father.

But, I was and am him.

Everything that we learned happened before we were ten years old.

But compare a character in Denis Wong’s short story “The Resurrection of Ma Jun” (Missouri Review, Spring 2018) who remarks:

Thinking about this stuff drives me crazy. Who cares about made-up ideas like God? “We can only rely on ourselves,” is what Quian and I have always believed. Not even our parents can save us. (p. 60)

Though I refuse to summarize Willis’s story that was a joy to (re)read, I will say that parts of “Octopus” have––in terms of style––a Wittgensteinian “family resemblance” to some of Kafka’s short stories––particularly “Forschungen eins Hundes” (“Investigations of a Dog”) (1922) and “Der Bau” (“The Burrow”) (1933) with the way each sentence seems to take the story in a new direction than it was seeming headed beforehand.

For the plot in Willis’s “Octopus” makes incredible strives sentence-by-sentence, where, like a corkscrew, each line and clause twists the narrative more and more––and all this strongly resembles the storytelling methods found in the anonymous Tale of Aladdin, a near-novella often lodged in copies of Tales from the Thousand and One Nights but technically not an original part of that anthology.

In terms of substance—particularly the (yes, I know) surrealistic content of radical juxtaposition to be found in “Octopus”––this reader also detects some resemblances to Nesca’s short story “Child,” (from Let It Bleed), the late, great Norm MacDonald (1959–2021) and his quasi-memoir-novel Based on a True Story: Not a Memoir (Random House, 2017), as well as Me & Mr. Cigar (Soho Teen, 2020) by Gibby Haynes…. (perhaps even Terry Southern (1924–1995) and his novel The Magic Christian (1959)….)

While I won’t quote from “Octopus,” which is brief enough to be read across a single lunch break, with regard to substance, things in it can be found that are reminiscent of the way Norm could twist a seemingly ugly remark until it blossomed into revelation:

 “Yeah,” says Adam Eget. “I really wish I’d met him, but it was before my time. There are so many great Kinison stories at the Store [a New York stand-up comedy club]. It’s so unfair that guys like Sam have to die so young and a sonofabitch like Nelson Mandela lived to be an old man.”

“Nelson Mandela wasn’t a sonofabitch. He fought apartheid and they put him in prison for more than twenty years. And when they finally released him and he took power, he never exacted revenge on his enemies. Instead, he exacted forgiveness on them and brought his torn nation together.”

“I thought he stole some diamonds.” (pp. 30–31)

The randomness of “Octopus,” furthermore, harkens back to my recent reading of Gibby’s own randomness, as when in his debut novel Me and Mr. Cigar he writes:

About halfway there in the wooded hollow right before Catfish Creek (where you’re more likely to catch a washing machine than a catfish), there’s a police car on the side of the road. Halfway across the bridge, just past the cop, I sneak a look back. He’s pulled out onto the road and turned on his lights. The cab of the pickup is suddenly filled with red flashing lights. For some reason the thump-thump-thump of the metal slats on the bridge is particularly loud tonight. I pull the truck over, stick it in park and look over at Lytle and Mr. Cigar. Wide-eyed, we simultaneously mouth an elongated Ohhhh shiiiiit. (p. 141)

So check out Nathan Willis’s “Octopus”––I think you’ll like it.

Mar 25 2022

Sally Rooney and Sherlock Holmes: Romance and Exhaustion

pencil shavings


(Consider the following to be a supportive response to Mary Ann Sieghart’s “Why Are So Many Men Still Resistant to Reading Women?” at Literary Hub, March 8, 2022.)

While St. Patrick’s Day has just passed, we nonetheless remain in an Irish holiday season, with the Spring Equinox, Easter Rising, May Day, (the 100th!) Bloomsday on June 16, and the Battle of the Boyne on July 12.

In such a season, and being an American, I feel free to admit that, more than Saint Bridget, and more than the mythical figure of Deirdre, has actress Maureen O’Hara (1920–2015) served as the central icon for my ideal Irishwoman––an ethic and ethnicity which she defines in her memoir ’Tis Herself (2004):

An Irishwoman is strong and feisty. She has guts and stands up for what she believes in. She believes she is the best at whatever she does and proceeds through life with that knowledge. She can face any hazard that life throws her way and stay with it until she wins. She is loyal to her kinsmen and accepting of others. She’s not above a sock in the jaw if you have it coming. She is only on her knees before God. Yes, I am most definitely an Irishwoman. (p. 3)

Yet so much of the conversation in Irish writer Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends: a Novel (2017) comes across as mundane, moribund, university-centric banter that feels very far from being either “strong” or “feisty.” And though Rooney is said to be something of a socialist as well as a novelist—and I’m sure she could sock me in the jaw if she wanted to––no working-class Joes from Finglas show up in this novel. No sisters to hooligans from Glasgow pop up. No Shankill-type folk mucking about. Hers is instead a modern Dublin without a housing shortage.

Here I must admit to never really having understood the attraction some readers feel for reading about college-age romantic relationships, particularly in fiction. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of how romantically unwanted I felt way back when I was that age. Or maybe I followed Simone Weil’s advice too literally as when she writes in her essay “The Great Beast” how, “relationship breaks its way out of the social. It is the monopoly of the individual. Society is the cave. The way out is solitude,” (Simone Weil: an Anthology, ed. Siân Miles, (London: Virago Press, 1986), p. 142).

 Or perhaps I simply haven’t been trained to read that kind of prose properly––just as, as C. S. Lewis (native to Belfast), similarly reminds modern readers of their ineptitude for reading medieval allegory:

Young readers in the not ignoble ardours of calf-love, and elderly readers in the mood of reminiscence, whether wistful or ironic, could all find in it [the French Roman de la Rose, 1230–75 AD] the reflection of their own experience. But we are not so fortunately placed. We have to reckon not only with the unfamiliar erotic psychology, but with the unfamiliarity of allegory in general; and, to speak plainly, the art of reading allegory is as dead as the art of writing it, and more urgently in need of revival if we wish to do justice to the Middle Ages. (The Allegory of Love, (Oxford UP, 1936), p. 116)

On the other hand, just as Sherlock Holmes once noted that the most commonplace crime can, in fact, be the most mysterious, who’s to say the most commonplace of college flings may not contain their own profound, ineffable mysteries? For as Holmes explains:

“You failed at the beginning of the inquiry to grasp the importance of the single real clue which was presented to you. I had the good fortune to seize upon that, and everything which has occurred since then has served to confirm my original supposition, and, indeed, was the logical sequence of it. Hence things which have perplexed you and made the case more obscure, have served to enlighten me and to strengthen my conclusions. It is a mistake to confound strangeness with mystery. The most commonplace crime is often the most mysterious because it presents no new or special features from which deductions may be drawn. This murder would have been infinitely more difficult to unravel had the body of the victim been simply found lying in the roadway without any of those outré and sensational accompaniments which have rendered it remarkable. These strange details, far from making the case more difficult, have really had the effect of making it less so.” (A Study in Scarlet (1887), (I, vii) “Light in the Darkness”)

Rooney’s novel may in fact contain certain “rules of deduction” with regard to the contortions and conversations of college-age relationships:

[Said Holmes to Watson]: “I have a lot of special knowledge which I apply to the problem, and which facilitates matters wonderfully. Those rules of deduction laid down in that article which aroused your scorn, are invaluable to me in practical work. Observation with me is second nature.” (Study in Scarlet, (I, ii) “The Science of Deduction”)

My own ineptitude, meanwhile, has probably, as Holmes would say, “aroused” “scorn” when in fact Rooney may actually be providing “invaluable,” “practical work.”

For Sally Rooney is a true artist—she isn’t just disguising passages from some diary she journaled in adolescence as authentic, literary fiction—she is capable of an occasional strange, sublime metaphor, such as when the narrator informs readers:

He hung up. I closed my eyes and felt all the furniture in my room begin to disappear, like a backward game of Tetris, lifting up toward the top of the screen and then vanishing, and the next thing that would vanish would be me. (Conversations p. 272)

As a reader, I wonder whether Rooney’s character here is, in an emotional sense, thinking backwards the way Sherlock Holmes suggests analytic thinking should proceed:

“I have already explained to you that what is out of the common is usually a guide rather than a hindrance. In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backwards. That is a very useful accomplishment, and a very easy one, but people do not practise it much. In the every-day affairs of life it is more useful to reason forwards, and so the other comes to be neglected. There are fifty who can reason synthetically for one who can reason analytically…. If you told them a result, [they] would be able to evolve from their own inner consciousness what the steps were which led up to that result. This power is what I mean when I talk of reasoning backwards, or analytically.” (Study in Scarlet, (II, vii) “The Conclusion”)

Though it isn’t requisite for composing in an analytical style, Rooney’s prose is quite colorless. That’s not meant metaphorically. I found only two mentions of color in the book. First: “The tip of Bobbi’s cigarette glowed a spectral orange color and released tiny sparks into the air,” and, “On my first day a woman called Linda gave me a black apron and showed me how to make coffee,” (pp. 244, 277). As a reader, I almost feel that Rooney feels nothing new can be given to readers of her prose by including certain hues, just as Samuel Beckett once rewrote Ecclesiastes in the opening lines to his novel Murphy (1938) by penning that “the sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.”

I suppose Rooney should be extended the benefit of the doubt. For some of her descriptions of relationships possess both artistic merit as well as commentary on the (literary) arts. And that commentary involves a feeling of exhaustion of “the nothing new” in the humanities––the sterile, fatigued spirit of those who engage with works of art and literature with a chronic, political gaze, as in this moment:

I’ve never worked hard at anything I said.

That must be why you study English.

Then he said that he was just joking, and actually he had won his school’s gold medal for composition. I love poetry, he said. I love Yeats.

Yeah, I said. If there’s one thing you can say for fascism, it had some good poets. (Conversations pp. 200–01)

Similar to the exhaustion found in Rooney’s novel is a line from Irish writer Roddy Doyle’s short story “The Slave” (from his 2011 anthology Bullfighting, Viking), where the narrator reflects how “I can read, for fuck sake. I’m a two books a week man; I eat the fuckin’ things. So, yea. But I don’t remember learning how to read,” (p. 43). In this case it seems his attitude of exhaustion was produced by an overexposure to the arts, while his ignorance of how he learned to read seem rather unintentional.

But to this one might also contrast Dr. Watson’s description of Sherlock Holmes:

His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothing. Upon my quoting Thomas Carlyle, he inquired in the naivest way who he might be and what he had done. (Study in Scarlet, (I, ii) “The Science of Deduction”)

And later Holmes admits aloud:

“Excuse the admiration of a connoisseur,” said he as he waved his hand towards the line of portraits which covered the opposite wall. “Watson won’t allow that I know anything of art but that is mere jealousy because our views upon the subject differ. Now, these are a really very fine series of portraits.” (The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902), “XIII. Fixing the Nets”)

So regarding the above moments in Rooney’s novel and Roddy Doyle’s short story, I wager they contain cases involving an exhaustion with poetics, and possibly, unintentional ignorance; with Holmes, it’s a case of willful ignorance.

Ivan Turgenev’s novel Fathers and Sons (1862), likewise, contains a passage in its eleventh chapter where a character reflects on a seemingly similar attitude of aesthetic nihilism from his son’s friend from college: “Nicholas Petrovich lowered his head and passed a hand over his face. ‘But to reject poetry?’ he asked himself again. ‘To lack all feeling for art, for nature.’” In this case, Nicholas doesn’t know whether the poetic nihilism he has encountered is a product of exhaustion or willful ignorance. It might even be both.

Though I began this piece by dismissing a certain form of literary romance, Arthur Conan Doyle has informed readers that there is always romance:

“There is one other point,” said Inspector MacDonald. “You met Mr. Douglas in a boarding house in London, did you not, and became engaged to him there? Was there any romance, anything secret or mysterious, about the wedding?”

“There was romance. There is always romance. There was nothing mysterious.”

“He had no rival?”

“No, I was quite free.” (The Valley of Fear (1915), (I, v) “The People of the Drama”)

Whether or not Rooney is as exhausted with aesthetic contemplation as I sometimes am when reading about romances occurring among a college-age demographic in a university environment, there is something “quite free” in her writing. And that means I’ll have to keep reading her. Because:

Everything without exception which is of value in me comes from somewhere other than myself, not as a gift but as a loan which must be ceaselessly renewed. Everything without exception which is in me is absolutely valueless; and, among the gifts which have come to me from elsewhere, everything which I appropriate becomes valueless immediately as I do so.

––Simone Weil, “The Self,” Simone Weil: an Anthology, p. 103.

Mar 6 2022

Russian Reading List (March 2022)

Here are approximately 125 online items about the Russian security issue (an informal hobby of mine) that I’ve happened to have read in the last 5 years.

Due to link-rot, some on the links may not work; others may now be behind paywalls when previously they were not; others may no longer exist on their original domains but may be found on things like etc.

I look at this list as a modest contribution to the OSINT (open-source intelligence) community, but offer no opinions or criticisms or analysis of any of the following items:


Aiken, Steven. “If you think Russia poses no danger to Northern Ireland, then think again,” Belfast Telegraph, March 22, 2018.

Baev, Pavel K. “Russia Stumbles in the Fog of Syrian War,” Lawfare, March 2, 2018.

Bamford, James. “The Spy Who Wasn’t,” New Republic, February 11, 2019.

Barros, George. “Dostoevsky’s ‘Russian God’: Russian Attitude Toward Faith and Christianity,” Providence Magazine, August 12, 2019.

Bauer, Bob. “The Indictment of Russia’s Super PAC and the Open Question of Trump Campaign Complicity,”, February 16, 2018.

Bellingcat Investigation Team, “ ‘V’ for Vympel’: FSB’s Secretive Department ‘V’ Behind Assassination of Georgian Asylum Seeker in Germany,” Bellingcat 17 February 2020.

–––––. “FSB Team of Chemical Weapon Experts Implicated in Alexey Navalny Novichok Poisoning,”, 14 December 2020.

Benner, Thorsten. “The Dark Arts of Foreign Influence-Peddling,” The Atlantic, February 25, 2018.

Bennetts, Marc “Why Orthodox Christians are losing faith in Putin,” Politico EU, December 24, 2019.

Bershidsky, Leonid. “Putin is Struggling to Keep His Wars Separate,” Bloomberg, February 14, 2018.

Bogomolov, Alexander and Oleksandr Lytvynenko, “A Ghost in the Mirror: Russian Soft Power in Ukraine,” Chatham House Briefing Paper, January 2012.

Borrell, Josep. “My visit to Moscow and the future of EU-Russia relations,” European Union External Action Service (EEAS), Feb. 7, 2021.

Brodsky, Joseph. “Dreams of America Behind the Iron Curtain,” Lithub, March 14, 2020.

Brundage Miles, et al, “The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, and Mitigation.” Future of Humanity Institute, University of Oxford. February 2018.

Cadwalladr, Carole, “The Cambridge Analytica Files: ‘I Created Steve Bannon’s Psychological Warfare Tool‘,” The Guardian, March 17, 2018.

Chernichkin, Kostyantyn, “Power of decentralization: New money spurs villages,” Kviv Post, May 25, 2018.

Cohen, Raphael S. and Andrew Radin, “Russia’s Hostile Measures in Europe,” RAND Corp. 2019.

Collins, Ben and Gideon Resnick, Spencer Ackerman, “Leaked: Secret Documents from Russia’s Election Trolls,” Daily Beast, March 1, 2018.

Collins, Ben and Josh Russell, “Russians Used Reddit and Tumblr to Troll 2016 Election,” Daily Beast, March 1, 2018.

Collins, Liam. “A New Eastern Front: What the U.S. Army Must Learn from the War in Ukraine,” Association of the U.S. Army, April 16, 2018.

Cottrell, Robert. “Russia’s Gay Demons,” New York Review of Books, December 7, 2017.

Der Spiegel Staff, “The Breach from the East: German intelligence officials issued warnings back in 2016 of a cyber-espionage group known as Snake,” Der Spiegel Online, trans. Paul Cohen, March 5, 2018.

Deutsch Welle, “Russia, US battle for extradition of accused hacker Nikulin,” February 24, 2018.

Dobbins, James, Howard J. Shatz, and Ali Wyne, “Russia is a Rouge, Not a Peer; China Is a Peer, Not a Rouge,” RAND Corp., October 2018.

Dorfman, Zach, “The Secret History of the Russian Consulate in San Francisco,” Foreign Policy Magazine, December 14, 2017.

–––––. “How Silicon Valley Became a Den of Spies,” Politico Magazine, July 27, 2018.

Edel, Anastasia, “My Mother’s Brilliant Career in Soviet Culture,” The New York Review of Books, May 29, 2018.

Entous, Adam and Ronan Farrow, “Private Mossad for Hire: Inside a plot to influence American elections, starting with one small-town race,” The New Yorker, February 18, 2019.

Esch, Christian interview with Oleg Sentsov, “They Try to Get Under Your Skin: Ukrainian Director Oleg Sentsov on Being a Political Prisoner in Russia,” Der Spiegel, October 15, 2019.

–––––. “I Started Seeing Agents Everywhere [Interview with Daria Navalnaya],” Der Spiegel International, December 16, 2021.

Fandos, Nicholas and Adam Goldman. “Ex-Aide Saw Gordon Sondland as a Potential National Security Risk,” New York Times, October 16, 2019.

Feldman, Evgeny and Mikhail Stavtsev (photo editor), “I hate that I’m broken: Two years ago, Dasha Lesnykh’s partner was sent to prison as part of the ‘Moscow Case’,” Meduza, December 2021.

Galeotti, Mark. “Former Russian Spy Scandal Suggests the Old Espionage Rules Are Breaking Down (Op-ed),” Moscow Times, March 6, 2018.

–––––. “Russia in 2020. Like 2019, but more so,” RaamOpRusland, December 23, 2019.

Gershman, Carl. “In an Era of Geopolitical Uncertainty, Lithuania Inspires,” World Affairs, March 2, 2018.

Gessen, Keith. “The Quiet Americans Behind the U.S.–Russia Imbroglio,” New York Times Magazine, May 5. 2018.

Gessen, Masha. “The Fundamental Uncertainty of Mueller’s Russia Indictments,” New Yorker, February 20, 2018.

“Getting Out from ‘In-Between’: Perspectives on the Regional Order in Post-Soviet Europe and Eurasia,” eds. Samuel Charap, Alyssa Demus, Jeremy Shaprio, (RAND Corp, 2018).

Goldsmith, Jack. “The Puzzle of the GRU Indictment,”, 21 October 2020.

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Mackintosh, Eliza. “Finland is winning the war on fake news. What it’s learned may be crucial to Western democracy,” CNN Special Report, May 2019.

Magnay, Diana. “Russia’s decriminalising of domestic violence means women continue to die,” Sky News, March 21, 2021.

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–––––. “How Twitter Bots and Trump Fans Made #ReleaseTheMemo Go Viral,” Politico, February 2, 2018.

–––––. “Did Russia Affect the 2016 Election? It’s Now Undeniable,” Wired, February 16, 2018.

–––––.”How Liberals Amped Up a Parkland Shooting Conspiracy Theory,” Wired, February 27, 2018.

–––––. “Searching for a Stronghold in the Fight Against Disinformation,” (Center for International Governance Innovation), June 4, 2018.

–––––. “ ‘They Will Die in Tallinn’: Estonia Girds for War with Russia,” Politico, July 10, 2018.

McLaughlin, Jenna and Zach Dorfman, “ ‘Shattered’: Inside the secret battle to save America’s undercover spies in the digital age,” Yahoo News, December 30, 2019.

Meek, James. “The Village Life,” London Review of Books, 41 (6 June 2019).

Mendick, Robert and Adrian Gatton. “BP chief executive Bob Dudley ‘poisoned in Russian plot’,” The Age, April 30, 2018.

Michel, Casey and Andrei Soldatov, “Russian journalist explains the role of the Panama Paters in Russia’s interference operations,”, August 2, 2018.

Mishulovich, Ellis. “Why Does Russia Build So Many Doomsday Weapons?” National Review, April 19, 2018.

Morson, Gary. “Pray for Chekov: Or What Russian Literature Can Teach Conservatives,” The Heritage Foundation: Russell Kirk Memorial Lecture, December 13, 2016.

–––––. “Pig and People: The Rise and Fall of the First Russian Populists,” Weekly Standard, July 29, 2018.

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Napalkova, Anastasia; Timur Sazonov, Anna Pushkarskaia, “ ‘Putin’s Palace’: Builders’ story of luxury, mould and fake walls,” BBC World, Feb. 16, 2021.

Nardelli, Alberto and Mykhailyna Skoryk, “The Professor At The Center of the Trump-Russia Probe Boasted To His Girlfriend in Ukraine that He Was Friends with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov,”, February 27, 2018.

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Saivetz, Carol R. “Russia’s New Crises on the Periphery,” Lawfare, February 14, 2021.

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–––––. “Londongrad oligarchs are being forced back to Russia’s embrace,” Financial Times, June 1, 2018.

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Feb 27 2022

What Dreams May Come After Awakening? Review of Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys” (2019)


The Elgonyi, natives of the Elgon forests, of central Africa, explained to me that there are two kinds of dreams: the ordinary dream of the little man, and the ‘big vision’ that only the great man has, e.g., the medicine-man or chief. Little dreams are of no account, but if a man has a ‘big dream’ he summons the whole tribe in order to tell it to everybody.

––Carl Jung, “Relations between Ego & Unconscious” (1928)[1]

I don’t know. But I don’t vote anymore. I’m now a radical nonvoter (I think). I feel utterly powerless, ever since the snow storm last year. It was like a revelation, an epiphany, an awakening.

Recently I started reading Colson Whitehead’s novel The Nickel Boys (2019) and, in a particular passage, recognized a shared sense of powerlessness:

It was hard to miss the smile that tugged at Jaimie’s mouth from time to time. Turner wasn’t angry that Jaimie lied to their faces. He admired liars who kept on lying even though their lies were obvious, but there was nothing anyone could do about it. Another proof of one’s powerlessness before other people.[2]

Yes, once upon a time I possessed the capacity to admire politicians who “kept on lying even though their lies were obvious”—James Traficant (1941–2014) for example, whom I gather, was sort of low-rent version of Huey Long (1893–1935).

But now I’m stuck in a bog of disenchantment. And when you’re stuck, you feel mediocre. The Roman historian Livy tells readers that “men of mediocre ability escape envy, it generally aims its shafts at the highest”[3]––after the ice storm of 2021, I feel I am the very measure of a mediocre man.

But even though one is stuck, one is going to have to suck it up. For no one envies a person in pain (especially the pain of powerlessness in politics), for “nothing makes itself more unpopular quite so quickly,” wrote the Roman stoic Seneca, “as a person’s grief.” [4]

In more modern times, Professor Wittgenstein has taught that: “you learned the concept ‘pain’ in learning language”[5]––such as the pain of feeling powerless when being lied to––as with the character of Elwood in The Nickel Boys, as in Texas politics etcetera….

All I know is, I will no longer sacrifice anything upon the altar of admiration for political leadership, particularly at the local level. Those who look to leadership for answers are no different than those who look at pornography for partnership.

But, whether in novels or the minds of mediocre book-bloggers have those who have become disenchanted from such dreams of realpolitik now awakened? Do they now rise and walk in a brand-new life?


One reads in The Nickel Boys that

[Thus said Dr. King]: Throw us in jail, and we will still love you…. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom.

The capacity to suffer. Elwood—all the Nickel boys—existed in the capacity…. Elwood shook his head. What a thing to ask. What an impossible thing…. No, he could not make that leap to love. He understood neither the impulse of the proposition nor the will to execute it.[6]

That passage dimly resembles the Revelation in the second partition of the first volume of Proust when:

… at the hour when there awakened in me that anguish which, later on in life, transfers itself to the passion of love, and may even become its inseparable companion…. since one has doubts of them at the moment when one believes in them.[7]

Then again, the passage by Whitehead reminds me also of one by Professor Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between the World and Me (2015) when he explains that, “The question of how one should live within a black body, within a country lost in the Dream, is the question of my life, and the pursuit of this question, I have found, ultimately answers itself.”[8]

But now emerges the question of whether or not waking life and dreaming (or nightmaring) are interchangeable, something that can be exchanged for something else, like at the back-counter at Wal-Mart. For all dreams are ideologies; all ideologies are dreams. As the Czech playwright-politician Václav Havel (1936–2011) says in his essay “The Power of the Powerless”(1978):

Ideology becomes at the same time an increasingly important component of power, a pillar providing it with both excusatory legitimacy and an inner coherence. As this aspect grows in importance, and as it gradually loses touch with reality, it acquires a peculiar but very real strength. It becomes reality itself, albeit a reality altogether self-contained, one that on certain levels (chiefly inside the power structure) may have even greater weight than reality as such. Increasingly, the virtuosity of the ritual becomes more important than the reality hidden behind it.[9]

There are times when I just can’t stop questioning. I find virtue in it as a ritual. Questions like:

  • Is The Nickel Boys more about doubting the possibility of loving one’s harm-makers rather than having become disenchanted by their capabilities?
  • Must readers interpret Whitehead’s character of Elwood to interpret King’s words literally?
  • Or must readers investigate the historical context of the speech to see if King was speaking literally, metaphorically, poetically, spiritually, subculturally, bureaucratically, democratically, and/or theologically?
  • Or does the character within the book possess no need for adjectives in order to possess disbelief in King’s admonition?

After all, who needs specifics when the generality is already within one’s grasp?

Is political dreaming just a form of quackery (just as philosophy is a form of medicine)?[10]

And if Jung was not a quack but someone who studied dreams––the way a political scientist studies various ideologies––can readers accept his realization-as-remedy? Would Carl Jung and Colson Whitehead agree that dreaming is primitive, and waking life (in political as well as physiological ways) a more evolved, more enlightened mode of consciousness? For Jung reminds readers that dreams cannot be unbound from the paleolithic past out of whence they came:

Fantasies always have a highly original and ‘creative’ character. They are like new creations; obviously they derive from the creative activity of the brain and not simply from its mnemonic activity….[11]

The symbol-producing function of our dreams is an attempt to bring our original mind back to consciousness, where it has never been before, and where it has never known it. We got rid of it before understanding it…. Dreams and old primitive things from which the mind freed itself in the course of its evolution: illusions, childish fantasies, archaic thought-forms, primitive instincts.[12]

More to come (maybe).



[1] Jung, “Relations between ego and unconscious” (1928) in The Jung Reader, ed. David Tacey, (New York: Routledge, 2012) 126.

[2] Whitehead, The Nickel Boys, (New York: Doubleday, 2019), 129.

[3] Livy, The History of Rome Vol. VI – books xl–xlv, trans. Canon Roberts (London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1924) XLV, xxxv, 282.

[4] Seneca, Letters from a Stoic, trans. Robin Campbell, (New York: Penguin Classics, 1969), Letter LXIII, p. 116.

[5] Wittgenstein, “Notes for Lectures on ‘Private Experience’ and ‘Sense Data’,” Philosophical Review, 77 (July 1968): 275–320 at 295–96; Philosophical Investigations, trans. G.E.M. Anscombe, P.M.S. Hacker and Joachim Schulte, (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1953, 1958, 2001), Revised Fourth Edition by Hacker and Schulte, (2009) (Revised Fourth Edition, 2009) I. no. 384.

[6] Whitehead, Nickel Boys, 172–73, 195–96.

[7] Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) – Vol. I Du côté de chez Swann (Swann’s Way) (1913), trans. C. K. Moncrieff, § “Combray.”

[8] Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015)11–12.

[9] Havel, “Moc bezmocných” (“The Power of the Powerless,”) (1978), trans. Paul Wilson, The Power of the Powerless, ed. John Keane, (Armonk, NY: Palach Press, 1985) V, 32.

[10] Livy has some old Roman named Appius Claudius cry out: “Ye gods, they are like quack physicians looking for work, who always want the state to be suffering some affliction that you will call them in to cure. Are you tribunes the champions or the enemies of the plebs?” (The Rise of Rome, Books 1–5, trans. T. J. Luce, (New York: Oxford UP) (V, iii), p. 284).

Marcus Aurelius says that philosophy is supposed to be a medicine, not an entertainment (V, ix); for “philosophy is a modest profession, all simplicity and plain dealing. Never try to seduce me into solemn pretentiousness,” (IX, xxix). See Meditations, trans. Maxwell Staniforth, (New York: Penguin, 1962).

[11] Jung, “The role of the unconscious” (1918), The Jung Reader 66.

[12] Jung, “Healing the split” (1961), The Jung Reader 359.

Feb 22 2022

Write Word, Right Word, Wrong Word, Onward

porticos in Bologna, Italia

Write Word, Right Word, Wrong Word, Onward

A comparison on word usage and how the usage comes before the word gets spoken/written:

First, from our pal Emerson (1803-1882):

No man can write well who thinks there is any choice of words for him. The laws of composition are as strict as those of sculpture and architecture. There is always one line that ought to be drawn or one proportion that should be kept & every other line or proportion is wrong, and so far wrong as it deviates from this. So in writing, there is always a right word, and every other than that is wrong. There is no beauty in words except in their collocation. The effect of a fanciful word misplaced, is like that of a horn of exquisite polish growing on a human head.

(Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks, Vol. III (1826–1832), ed. William H. Gilman et al, (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1960–82),Vol. III (1826–1832), July 8, 1831, pp. 270–71)

Next from the apothogetic Karl Kraus (1874-1936):

If there is a misprint in a sentence and it still makes sense, that sentence was not an idea.

(Half-Truths & one-and-a-half truths: selected aphorisms, ed. and trans. Harry Zohn, (Chicago University Press, 1976) p. 66)