Oh, Boris Nikolayevich, it seems as if your excessive vodka consumption and mad dancing skills have finally caught up with you. I wish I could write a thoughtful ode to your long and glorious career as Russia’s first democratically elected president, but unfortunately your shining moment atop that tank on a warm day in August has long been overshadowed by the bloody Chechen War, disastrous economic policies, and the rise of the oligarchs. To be fair, you were dealt a bad hand – it’s not often that a leader is faced with the monumental task of completely rebuilding the economic and political institutions of a country that has known only the iron-fisted rule of Tsars and Communist bureaucrats.
A big man with a ruddy face and white hair, he was full of peasant bluster — what the Russians call a real muzhik — and came to Moscow with a genuine warmth and concern for his countrymen.
During a visit to the United States in 1989 he became more convinced than ever that Russia had been ruinously damaged by its centralized, state-run economic system, where people stood in long lines to buy the most basic needs of life and more often than not found the shelves bare. He was overwhelmed by what he saw at a Houston supermarket, by the kaleidoscopic variety of meats and vegetables available to ordinary Americans.
Leon Aron, quoting a Yeltsin associate, wrote in his biography, “Yeltsin, A Revolutionary Life” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000): “For a long time, on the plane to Miami, he sat motionless, his head in his hands. ‘What have they done to our poor people?’ he said after a long silence.” He added, “On his return to Moscow, Yeltsin would confess the pain he had felt after the Houston excursion: the ‘pain for all of us, for our country so rich, so talented and so exhausted by incessant experiments.’ ”
He wrote that Mr. Yeltsin added, “I think we have committed a crime against our people by making their standard of living so incomparably lower than that of the Americans.” An aide, Lev Sukhanov was reported to have said that it was at that moment that “the last vestige of Bolshevism collapsed” inside his boss.
“I want to ask for your forgiveness. For the fact that many of the dreams we shared did not come true. And for the fact that what seemed simple to us turned out to be tormentingly difficult. I ask forgiveness for not justifying some hopes of those people who believed that at one stroke, in one spurt, we could leap from the gray, stagnant, totalitarian past into the light, rich, civilized future. I myself believed in this, that we could overcome everything in one spurt. I turned out to be too naïve.”
Parents say they’re searching for “productive” outlets for their 8-year-olds’ obsessions with dying polar bears. Teachers say enrollment in high school and college environmental studies classes is doubling year after year. And psychologists say they’re seeing an increasing number of young patients preoccupied by a climactic Armageddon.
After 8-year-old Mollie Passacantando, daughter of Greenpeace USA’s executive director, read a story about polar bears in class this year, the Fairfax County youngster and her friends spent recess marching around the playground with signs reading, “Stop global warming. Save the polar bears.” A classmate taunted, “You can march all you want, but you’re not going to save a single polar bear.”
On the one hand, it’s good to see kids taking an interest in the environment. But…THESE KIDS ARE 8 YEARS OLD! They should be playing effin’ kickball and eating chocolate chip granola bars during recess, not taking sides in a debate concerning climate change and worrying themselves sick that there won’t be any oxygen left in 20 years (WTF?). When I was a kid we learned about recycling and acid rain and the big ass hole in the ozone layer during our science classes. One of my teachers even built some bizarre solar powered oven and baked cookies in it. Life was good. Technology was gonna save the day. None of this environmental doom and gloom stuff ever made it into our heads (odd, considering I went to a Catholic school, which basically traffics more doom and gloom than the Cali Cartel does in cocaine).
But then again, this is Washington DC. Are you really that surprised to read that the children of lobbyists are campaigning on the playground?
Just booked my ticket to Ukraine and Poland. Yes, I am once again vacationing in the former Communist Bloc. Does that really surprise you? I swear, one of these days I will make it to Asia or South America.
On July 1 I’m meeting up with Ryan, a friend I’ve known since high school, who is traveling around Russia and Ukraine for several weeks this summer. We’ll be in Kiev for a few days, then he’ll head down to the Crimea while I’ll fly to Krakow, Poland, spend the remainder of the week there, and return to DC on July 8.
Looking forward to some classic Eastern European customer service, vodka, and quite possibly a bit of civil unrest.
It’s yet another rainy and cold day here in our nation’s capital, which translates into canceled Wiffleball games, copious amounts of green tea, avoiding the torrential downpour and flooding streets, and, god help me, watching Billy Joel music videos on YouTube.
You’re soooo hardcore, Billy
This all started when, out of pure boredom, Mike and I started comparing the famous people who we share our birthdays with. I, sadly, have the same birthday (May 9) as former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and the esteemed musical artist and Russophile, Billy Joel. I wonder if everyone born on May 9 has a slight obsession with Russia, due to it also being Den’ Pobedy. Billy, though, seems to put out really sappy Cold War ballads (i.e., “Leningrad”) whereas I tend to pursue useless, and very expensive, academic degrees. I don’t know which is worse, but he does have a lot more money in his bank account than I do.
Anyways, Mike and I discovered that, while in middle school, we both had to do class projects on his famous 1989 song, “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Even before this sixth grade project, I was quite familiar with this song, as my Dad was (still is?) a huge Billy Joel fan and would often play his tapes in the car (that, along with Toto and Meat Loaf and Boston and Tom Petty and ohmygod I can’t believe I left my Walkman and Pearl Jam tape at home, I’m going to start banging my head against the window now).
The actual “project” consisted of our world history teacher playing the song over and over and over to the point where we had all memorized the lyrics and loved shouting “JFK BLOWN AWAY, WHAT ELSE DO I HAVE TO SAY?” in the hopes that our principal, a Catholic nun, would walk by at that very moment. I don’t remember actually learning anything with this particular assignment, but I did make a kick ass poster by cutting up a few volumes of National Geographic and presenting it to my class:
“This is a photo of some Soviet soldiers. Billy Joel talks about the Soviets in his song.”
“Very good, Lindsay.”
“And this is a photo of a guy in China being run over by a tank.”
“Uh, yes, that is Tienanmen Square.”
“Uh-huh. And here is Coke and Pepsi and a space shuttle.”
“Great, great. Very good.”
I’m pretty sure I got an A on that assignment, even though I obviously spent more time cutting up magazines and gluing photos of Mickey Mantle and crack cocaine to a poster board than I did researching the actual subjects he was singing about. Whatev.
The song has annoyed me ever since, though, because I really effin’ hated the whiney chorus:
We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it
Well, OK, Billy, maybe you have a point in that your generation (the Baby Boomers) didn’t start the fire, but then again I don’t think you put much effort into fighting it, as you claim you “tried” to do. Rather, you and your cohorts just stood around the fire, occasionally dousing it in gasoline while clad in tie-dye and Birkenstocks, dropping acid, and then writing songs about how you played no role whatsoever in the problems plaguing the world, which apparently include the bloody Cola Wars of the 1980s. Hippies.
For those of you who were lucky enough not to have to do a project on this song, here are the lyrics and music video:
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to purge this song from my memory by listening to Something Corporate and Rage Against the Machine. Coachella in 12 days, ooooh yeah.
If the lease on my apartment says no dogs or cats, does that mean I could have a pet polar bear, seeing as the polar bear is neither a cat nor dog? I could buy it one of those plastic kiddie pools and fill it with ice, but could possibly do without that, seeing as the house is always freezing in the winter (typical lackluster DC construction) and summer (air-conditioning…energy conservation WTF?)
I am not sure what the polar bear would eat, but it damn well better get used to shredded beef taquitos and shrimp tacos, which make up 90% of my diet.
I know I have been terribly lazy about updating this thing. It’s just that there is really nothing to write about. It is amazing how monotonous life has become since moving back to DC. For five days a week, you wake up, go to work, go to sleep, and then have a weekend. And this is what life is like for 40 YEARS UNTIL YOU RETIRE. WTF.
I think I am going to join the French Foreign Legion. Or maybe go back to the LSE for another useless degree. This time, though, I’ll go for a PhD so that I can be “Dr. Fincher”, Kremlinologist extraordinaire and frequent contributor to the History Channel.
This is due to about 75% of my own stupidity, but to make a long story short, I managed to have a run in with a random fencepost and construction rubble while trying to get out of my tight parking spot in the back of my house. Yeah, sucks. Got out of my car and was like “Oh @%$#%@!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s worth a plane ticket to China!” As you can see from the pic, a good chunk of paint was scraped off clear down to the steel. I am not too worried about the dent. Just look at the cars around this god-forsaken city and you’ll find that every other one has got some sort of body damage. I’ll probably get it fixed after I move away from this fetid swamp (hopefully in a year). My only concern is the effed up paint. With all the precipitation we get, the last thing I want is for rust to develop on this open spot. Nissan sells bottles of touch up paint. Can I just apply that to the metal section so that it will at least seal it and prevent rust until I can get this properly fixed?
Oh, and if anyone asks, I hit a boulder or something while offroading, OK?