Friday, June 11, 2010

Mundo Trasho

As I pack up my books, I realize that I've got to purge my files. My blog file is filled with random articles, web pages, handwritten notes, and book advertisements. Its contents are in fact even more random and disorganized than what appears in this blog. It's time to start over with a new blog file but I'll just briefly review what I actually discovered in this Pandora's box.

In the category of book advertisement, almost exclusively from the New York Review of Books, are books under that same imprint, including Chekhov's Peasants and Other Stories, Shchredin's The Golovlyov Family, Vladimir Sorokoni's Ice (noted since I've never heard of it, and described as a "work of fantasy, prophecy, and paradoy), Victor Serge's The Case of Comrade Tulayev (the blog definitely needs to include something by Serge in the near future, right?), and a poetry collection about eight poets called The Stray Dog Cabaret (don't know if eight poets will be enough to help me understand the true significance of that celebrated place, or that generation of poets in general).

There's also an Economist book review about Wojciech Jagielski's book, Towers of Stone; The Battle of Wills in Chechyna. The reviewer calls Chechnya's "Russia's miserable corner" and attributes the misery to kidnapping, two wars, guerilla warfare, and bad decisions but Russian as well as Chechyan leaders. There were two wars, the first, a tie, occurred between 1994 and 1996, the second, which began in 1999, resulted in Russian victory, although at a terrific cost to the local population and the Russian economy as well. Jagielski's book tries to explain the origins of these wars as a mixture of three different but overlapping forces: a gangster culture of tight-nit clans, resurgent Islamic fundamentalism, and an old-fashioned struggle for independence against a colonial power.

Then I've cut out a few audio course advertisements from the Teaching Company. There is Jerry Muller's course, Thinking about Capitalism, that seemed helpful at the time. It would be nice to see how other, non-Marxist thinkers made sense of capitalism, especially Burke, Moser, De Tocqueville, Arnold, Tonnies, Simmel, Weber, Schumpeter (above all Schumpeter), Hayek, etc. There are even lectures about fascist thinkers such as Freyer and Schmidt, New Left thinkers like Marcuse, and the list goes on. Maybe I do need the course. The audio is $70 dollars however, with the DVD set at $99 dollars. There are others on the Russian composers, Tschaikovsky and Stravinsky for example, but I've since discovered these expensive lectures at libraries, and didn't particularly care for the ones on Shostakovitch in any case. (Next to Stravinsky, there's a list of some of his friends, and they range from Nijinsky, T.S. Eliot, Jean Cocteau, and, best of all, Zsa Zsa Gabor).

Under the category of randomly scribbled notes, I've got notes about Brezhnev, with words like sycophant, status quo, ideologue, corruption, flattery, vain, favorites, and simplistic written underneath. And then there are a few short phrases there as well, including the following: "diary simplistic," "didn't read or write much," "conflict adverse, etc." I can only feel sorry for the man and hope that somebody doesn't purge a file with my name, Fur Coat, and a few similar epithets written down.

What else? There are a series of Economist articles which was my attempt to keep current, at least on some level, with current Russian and Near Abroad realities. There's something on the Kirghistan's recent uprising, apparently an embittered and disillusioned response to corruption, nepotism, bad economic policy, and authoritarian police brutality. There's a short editorial on the terrorist bombings in Moscow that killed at least 39 people, which the author links to Islamic Fundamentalism in Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia, as well as Russia's brutality in dealing with local populations. More uniquely, the author also attacks Russia's culture of general corruption which, he says, allows terrorists easy access to most parts of Russia and its large economy. And there's an article dealing with Medvedev's proposals to modernize Russia without making any fundamental political reforms to support technological innovation. (The author is skeptical, of course, and links a plan to create an isolated Russian zone of innovation near Moscow to previous efforts to impose modernity from on high, and at great cost, by leaders such as Peter the Great and Stalin.)

But there's still more in my file of random clippings that's headed for the trash. There's Northwestern University's Web site for its business faculty bloggers, located at One more reminder that I need to spend some time learning what the best bloggers do to improve their products.

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