Archive for September, 2012

TODAY’S CHOICE

September 23, 2012

Just two poems by a Welsh man of letters W.H.Davies (1871-1940):

 

The Happy Child

I saw this day sweet flowers grow thick —

But not one like the child did pick.

I heard the packhounds in green park —

But no dog like the child heard bark.

I heard this day bird after bird —

But not one like the child has heard.

A hundred butterflies saw I —

But not one like the child saw fly.

I saw the horses roll in grass —

But no horse like the child saw pass.

My world this day has lovely been —

But not like what the child has seen.

 

Truly Great

MY walls outside must have some flowers,

My walls within must have some books;

A house that’s small; a garden large,

And in it leafy nooks.

A little gold that’s sure each week;

That comes not from my living kind,

But from a dead man in his grave,

Who cannot change his mind.

A lovely wife, and gentle too;

Contented that no eyes but mine

Can see her many charms, nor voice

To call her beauty fine.

Where she would in that stone cage live,

A self-made prisoner, with me;

While many a wild bird sang around,

On gate, on bush, on tree.

And she sometimes to answer them,

In her far sweeter voice than all;

Till birds, that loved to look on leaves,

Will doat on a stone wall.

With this small house, this garden large,

This little gold, this lovely mate,

With health in body, peace in heart–

Show me a man more great.

 

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WAKING UP TO THE 1930’s IN RUSSIA

September 22, 2012

The Putin government has ended the activities of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Russia. Commenting on the decision, Senator John McCain called it an insult to the United States. I’m not sure to what extent Putin meant it to be an insult (“a finger in the eye of the Obama administration”, as the Senator qualified it), but the Russian president’s move is further tightening control over the “dissenting minds’ inside Russia – over those who are looking towards the West for financial assistance or scholarships for studies or training. Dictators don’t like their subjects to be independent of them. State borders in the former Soviet Union were “dead bolted” not so much to prevent foreigners from coming in, as for its own people not to run way – in search of freedom or of “greener pastures”, as the case might be. There was a joke in those days: “What would you do if the borders got opened?” – “I’d climb a tree.” – “?!” – “Not to be trampled underfoot.”

Moscow’s decision comes after President Vladimir Putin in July signed into law a bill that compelled NGOs which were funded from abroad to register as “foreign agents.” Notably, in the time of my childhood the word “agent” meant not a “representative body”, but a “foreign spy”, and was often interchangeable with the word combination an “imperialist agent.”  A teacher at my school could tell lazy students that by being disposed to idleness they were “bringing grist to the imperialist mill.” The dictator-speak is surging back again!

AN ANGRY POLYGLOT

September 20, 2012

Little Sophia’s behavior is often characterized by persistent refusals (without apparent reasons) to act on suggestions and orders of others. The family takes it easy: Sophia’s father (my son) was also a negativist when he was two years old, but now he is most delicate and considerate in his relationship with other people.

The family lives in a multi-language atmosphere. Generally, they speak Ukrainian at home, Sophia’s elder sister Maya attends an English-language school, and Sophia also chatters in English with her little friend Izzy on the playground. The German language is cultivated too: the mother of the family is fluent in it and Maya frequents a German Sunday school. So, whenever Sophia wants to reject something, she uses the Ukrainian “NEE” talking to her parents, the German NEIN is used in her address to Maya and the categorical English NO – while speaking with Izzy.

Once Sophia was extremely angry. The word “angry” may be the mildest term: Sophia was maddened and wrathful, enraged and furious, frantic and frenzied… Voicing her indignation to Mum, she raised her feelings to the third power exploiting all the languages she knew: “No! Nein!! Nee!!!”

FREEDOM – SO FAR

September 20, 2012

ImageThis night I dreamed I visited a “gastronom” – a Soviet-style food shop. There was a huge crowd inside. People were queuing up to buy bread and bottled milk (the only products which were there). The victuals were sold from behind the counter by the military personnel: civilian shop-assistants had been dismissed.

Of course, the real Soviet life had been less gloomy: the assortment still contained basic necessities and soldiers were never employed as salesmen.  Neither do I think there’ll be a return to “gastronoms” in this country: at the moment boutiques and supermarkets are mushrooming all over the Ukrainian capital. However, my dream had a very realistic basis: the political and social atmosphere in Ukraine is getting more and more like it was in the then-USSR. Yesterday saw another landmark on the road to suppressing freedom here: a bill entitled ”On Slander” was submitted to Parliament. According to the bill, conscious spreading of deliberately untrustworthy information that defames honour and dignity of another person may be punishable by a prison term of up to five years. That might sound reasonable if you forgot that courts in Ukraine are rubber-stamping sentences decided upon by the powers-that-be.  If any ruling party official (even on a local level) doesn’t like a critical remark in the media about himself, he can sue the “culprit”, and there can be no doubt what the decision of the court will be.

I liked a sarcastic observation concerning the richest person in Ukraine Renat Akhmetov which I came across on the Internet today. Mr. Akhmetov, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, is known NEVER to attend ANY of its meetings. However, he is always registered as the one who votes – by proxy, of course: he “has entrusted” his electronic card to party comrades who do the job instead of him, which is illegal in itself. So, officially, Renat Akhmetov “participated” in voting on the aforementioned bill, though he didn’t attend physically. The Internet journalist writes: “If I say that Renat Akhmetov didn’t vote this time, will it be a truth or a slander?”

Journalists say that, if implemented, the law will turn all newspapers into Pravda-like information sheets, and it will kill the very profession of a journalist (“Pravda” was the central organ of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union).

The law, which is to become operative on December 1 this year, may affect not only journalists, but 80 per cent of rank-and-file Ukrainians. What if I give my estimate of a leading politician in an email? Or if I post an unflattering political blog? The comforting thought is that I have at least two months when I can fear no repercussions. Two months of freedom.

A FOLLOW-UP TO THE PREVIOUS ENTRY

September 8, 2012

Last Thursday a Russian MIG-29, a fourth-generation fighter, crashed into a hill near Chita in Siberia. The pilot died. Until the time the causes of the crash are investigated, all MIG-29s have been grounded. At present there are about 300 MIG-29s in the Russian Army and Navy. In the last 10 years seven such fighters have crashed. The last one in June last year. Exactly a year ago, on September 6, 2011,  a MIG-31 was wrecked. Both pilots died.

As one of the Russian bloggers sarcastically said, there’s some relief in all this madness: cranes are still flying…

IMPRINTING

September 6, 2012

On his way to the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Vladivostok the Russian President had a stop-over in the Yamal Peninsula to teach endangered cranes, which had been raised in captivity, to follow a motorized hang glider in the cranes’ future migration to Central Asia. The idea of teaching birds this way is not new: it has been used by the American ornithologists for about a decade and is based on the so-called “imprinting”: while starting looking for their mother, newly-born birds accept as a parent anything that moves (the moving thing may even be an inanimate object). The phenomenon was studied by the Austrian zoologist Konrad Lorenz who in 1973 received the Nobel Prize for his research.  Speaking frankly, I think Konrad Lorenz should have shared his award with my fellow villagers where I grew as a child: the villagers didn’t know the term “imprinting” but they used to put ducks’ eggs in a hen’s nest for the hen to hatch the eggs and to lead the brood of ducklings until they mature.

I don’t think Mr. Putin’s action will contribute significantly to the protection of the Siberian white cranes which he is going to save. Within the last ten years the population of white cranes has increased only from 10 to 20 birds. But the PR event will imprint on the minds of an average Russian an image of a “moving” leader to be followed. As for the cranes… Looking at the President, who sitting in the hang glider dressed in white and rigged out in a pilot’s gear, one hardly thinks of cranes.  

At the exhibition of the Russian non-conformists in 1975 in Moscow, some artists, representing the so-called “sots-art”, pretended they were birds and kept sitting in a “nest” for a few days shocking the visitors. As we see, what was “non-conformist” in the Soviet Union, has become an esthetic value in present-day Russia.

Some state leaders participating in the APEC summit are going to persuade Vladimir Putin not to veto the decision of the UN Security Council to take actions to stop the bloodshed in Syria. The Russian President has a more important topic to consider in Vladivostok: he will be discussing with the Chinese leader how to arrange a natural reserve for leopards in the Far East. In this regard the tragedy of the nuclear submarine KURSK in the year 2000 is being brought to my mind. While the disaster played out in the Barents Sea, then President Vladimir Putin, suntanned in subtropical Sochi, continued his rest there. Later he said: “…From a PR point of view I should have demonstrated some special eagerness to return (from Sochi).” As may be seen with the cranes, Mr. Putin is learning the lesson of KURSK (see the last picture posted). 


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