40 thoughts on “General Board, mark III

  1. Just noticed that the blog’s social menu (essentially just a link to Twitter) is missing. Might’ve even been discontinued for Apostrophe. Let me see what’s going on.


    1. “Dostoevsky on Ideas That Plague Us: Reading “Crime and Punishment” as a Pandemic Novel”



      Desperate hype-eating (rus. хайпожорство), masquerading as “making classics relatable for the current audience by drawing parralels AND STAYING RELEVANT ALL CAPS SCREAMING THE MESSAGE IN YOUR FACE”.

      What you think, Nikita Andreyevich?

      Sure, it is. Who if not Mikhalkov knows a thing or two about it?

      “Indeed, the motif of illness runs through the entire novel, accompanying key developments and themes to such an extent that it would be better understood as a plague narrative.”

      No, it isn’t. Characters don’t even care about catching veneric infection, despite having enough reason to fear just that.

      “Deadly, half-baked ideas spread like viruses through the miasmatic air of Dostoevsky’s Petersburg, and Raskolnikov’s frequent physical symptoms underscore his susceptibility to this much more dangerous form of ideological contagion.”

      No, they don’t. If you want to discuss the spread of “half-baked ideas”, then there are “Besy” for that. Albeit, there is not much “spread” even there, but more description of the “ideological contagion” running its course.


        1. This, ah, “collection of courses” (I decided to highlight just one of them, but there were other “contenders for the title”) made me think once again about the state of the education. A few days ago I read a comment elsewhere in the theme about virus related rescrictions on schools in the West and conflicts that they cause. One of the commenters, a Brit, wrote that:

          schools function as a critical childcare need in the (now very common) situation where both parental adults need to work… There’s not much in the way of community childcare that can enable the children to be watched while the adults work, it’s school or nothing.“(c)

          The very first time I heard this argument – “schools as daycare units for teens” – was, surprisingly enough, during one of the reviews of the Breaking Bad TV series, although Walter White’s class are all highschoolers, but, ultimately, his job is to babysit them least they do some… bad stuff.

          Now, seeing, e.g. this particular course (and others – as I said, there were many “contenders for the title”) I have to ask – does the leadership and the managerial stuff of these institutions of the Higher Education also think that they are daycare units for the unqueit “yoof”? I can’t imagine for one sec, that this particular course had a proper “blessing” from the scientific community (philology and literature science aka “literaturovedineye”) at large as being something valid and worth passing on to the future generation. Meaning – it was purely “local initiative” from the professor providing this course, while her higher ups (charged with maintaining high standards of the Higher Education) were like “Meh, whatever, we don’t care”.

          Studying classics because they are classics? Because of the immanent truth, universal emotions and “eternal questions” relevant to the humans anywhere, anytime? Naaaah!..

          Tl;Dr. Lyt be like:


  2. Studying classics because they are classics? Because of the immanent truth, universal emotions and “eternal questions” relevant to the humans anywhere, anytime?

    The Humanities have entered the chat.

    Just kidding. But I have to say I’m skeptical of your argument that Higher Ed functions as a kind of daycare for their students.

    1. Attending uni isn’t mandatory in the same way attending school (up til age 16) is. The Bachelor’s degree has become a socially acceptable minimum education for a “good job,” but not everyone takes this path. There’s still technicums, the military, etc.
    2. College students have already entered legal adulthood. It is assumed that they are responsible for their time. They can channel their energy into any number of activities on campus without much “nudging” from their intellectual elders. There’s also less regulation.
    3. Unis provide an ideological upbringing for sure, but it can’t be equated with the entirety of a vospitanie.


    1. “1. Attending uni isn’t mandatory”

      Yes, no doubt here. But also considering this:

      “2. College students have already entered legal adulthood. It is assumed that they are responsible for their time. They can channel their energy into any number of activities on campus without much “nudging” from their intellectual elders. There’s also less regulation.”

      “Legal adulthood”, sadly, does not always translate in the genuine maturity. The availability of the many activities and the fact, that in the US students, mostly, choose which courses they plan to attend, only means that the educators have to “fight” for their attention – first, attract, then retain it.

      This is, btw, what all commercial places of the Higher Education do – they attract *paying* customers students and then try to retain them. At least here in Russia, there is a wide-held belief, that any particular paying student has some kind of “bulletproof” status, and that the faculty would be the most accommodating and, ah, “understanding”, so that not to lose them should they encounter some grades relating… “hurdles”.

      How else can you explain these courses, though? For me they look like sinecures for both the students and the professors doing it. Especially the professors – surely, having in their resume written that they took over a “class” and carried them through their course would look nice (or it’s just an obligatory thing). Don’t know about US, but in Russia professors got a pay raise if they have to deal with more classes/more students.

      Being 100% sincere and really believing things you teach surely helps along the way. No doubt some professors are just that.


      1. How else can you explain these courses, though?

        It might be helpful to compare Borderlines to a free Russian relative, the Open University: https://openuni.io/

        They look like incubators, created and maintained by people who felt that their ideas (their truths?) were not adequately represented in the world of official Higher Ed.

        As for the price tags, financial sustainability is financial sustainability. Why not give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they genuinely believe in their ideas and the need to spread them. American lefties are nothing if not passionate. But like, your cultural awareness project isn’t going to last long on passion alone.


        1. Re: “Open University”. This bloody Hogwarts.

          A dramedy in two acts.

          Act 1

          Enter Кирилл Мартынов (Novaya Gazeta/Free Moscow University)

          Act 2

          From their FAQ

          Curtains. Directed by Robert b

          People who can not issue even a “barrista’s diploma” are (taken from their very first page) fleecing net-hamsters.

          Curtains indeed.


          1. That raises an important question, though. In the event that they do begin to issue certification, what institutions will recognize them?

            Seems to me that this school is for networking and ideological purposes, at least at the moment.


            1. Re:what institutions will recognize [their diplomas]?

              [shrugs] Other sorosyata? The “open” in the name is dead give-away.


              1. Those aren’t institutions. They’re people with affiliations. Grad programs at MGU, Berkeley, Universität Leipzig or the University of Wherevertheheckwearia aren’t going to look at certification from Open University and say, “hmm, yes, you have a degree to build upon.”

                It’s about as strong as a single letter of rec.


  3. What the fuck are even crickets

    I gave my crickets a cluster of empty seedpods to hide in. Instead, all they ever do is stand on top of them. On the insect equivalent of tiptoes. For hours.


  4. Post on r/languagelearning about “linquistic adolescence.” In OP’s words:

    Whenever I reach a level where I can consume lots of native media in my target language, I tend to find lots of things interesting and cool, that on reflection I maybe wouldn’t find so in my native tongue. Later, when I’ve reached a higher level of proficiency in my target language, it’s like I’ve finally developed the skills to be more critical and demanding from the media that I consume.

    For some reason, the above reminds me of being a teenager, when you can get quite obsessed and devoted to things to a level that come adulthood can seem cringeworthy. I was just wondering if anyone had similar experiences or interpreted stages of their language-learning journeys similarly.

    Yep, sounds real familiar.

    4-5 years ago I def was experiencing something similar to what u/viktor77727 reports (except w/ Russian):

    When I was 15 I started to learn Swedish and I became obsessed with the history, languages and culture of the Nordic countries to the point that was the only thing I could talk about. I still cringe at that time in my life but at least I speak Swedish fluently now and have a good understanding of other North Germanic languages and some Finnish + I learned how to learn languages 🙂


    1. I’ve become aware of the upcoming “everything posted online could be used against you” Brave New World since… late 1990s – early 2000s, I think, merely be reading then prolific and very popular Russian magazines on all things computers related. I sincerely doubt, that our authors came up with such conclusions all be themselves and did not, you know, just copy-paste what their “elder colleagues and comrades” from the West had been saying back then. Back then I was young, tech-dumb (slight improvement here over the years…), but very impressionable. I kinda “dig” the message. The only working (at least – for me) option is a low-key bydlo-gopnik attitude expressed in short, beautiful, concise and deeply emotionally reverberating retort of “И чё, [expletive deleted]?!”

      Or, for the people craving haute culture:

      As a Russian, I *know* that I am (as well as my entire people, country and culture) already canceled in the West by the “bipartisan consensus” (c) of the “Left” and Right. So I don’t treat the Internet as a place to acquire “friends” and become overly invested in the default “system” offered to me.

      As for this particular crie de ceur belated essay:

      “Permanent mistakes can hold your reputation hostage. You are pre-judged by those you meet, and their expectations limit the change you can realize. There is no opportunity to be a tabula rasa. The experience of moving to a new city where you know absolutely no one is terrifying and exhilarating. The point is moot if you’re not allowed to redefine yourself because your words are written in digital concrete…


      Are we happy raising a generation where mistakes are captured forever? Will we develop new social etiquette, where social media posts over 10 years old are categorized as being from a ‘different person’?”

      I wonder – out loud – how come there is such a strong correlation between the people eager to “cancel” others over their past… and those objecting in the most strong language possible to those, who dare to “deadname” a particular cohort of the Adorables? 🙂


      1. It’s good that you came into that knowledge when you did. No doubt your natural skepticism (correct me if I’m wrong!) had a role to play.

        But assuming you’re in your thirties, you also moved about an internet that initially looked different than the contemporary one: more like Lyubertsy than Moskva-siti.

        It’s a bit different for my generation. We came of age surrounded by a mature internet. It was celebrated (celebrated itself) as a wild and wonderful new space to make friends and express oneself. And we bought it. We were young and naive. Some of us were even quite lonely. Nobody was thinking about the future. Not really.

        Our investment in the internet was formed long before the advent of cancel culture. We willingly surrendered our interests, opinions, and anxieties (to say nothing of personal data) before it occurred to us that all this information could used against us someday. The internet seemed so vast and ever-changing that it was easy to fall into a false sense of security – if we did write a few fucked-up things, no biggie; they’d soon be drowned out by new information or lost in poorly-indexed archives. Only recently have I come to realize that experimentation, expression, and being a generally messy human is best left to the offline world, while the net, written as it is in pen, not pencil, is a place to be polished, politkorrekt, and generally inoffensive. And maybe make money.

        It’s a bit too late for me, though. This blog’s ripe for the cancelling. As is my Twitter. Might as well ride this ship into the rocks.


        1. “No doubt your natural skepticism (correct me if I’m wrong!) had a role to play.”

          Eh, not sure that skepticism can ever be “natural”, and not developed. But, as a shorthand for “developed at the very young age due to many live examples and full immersion into the Russian realities” (plus the family doing its part, of course) can count as “natural”.

          “an internet that initially looked different than the contemporary one: more like Lyubertsy than Moskva-siti.”

          You have no idea, J.T. 🙂 Starting with – yes, I saw Lyubertsy of early 2000s and Moscow City rose right before my eyes. As for the RuNet of (late) 2000s… Wild place… [And I was not really enmeshed into politics till early 2010s!] Memetic status of the Russian Hackers ™ has a well deserved grounding in the reality. Simple understanding of the fact, that everything is hackable, therefore, everything is leakable, does wonders to your priorities on-line. But, yeah, even then there was a sense that this “feast of life” won’t last forever, and soon individual hakers will be replaced by… someone else with the resources and organization.

          “Our investment in the internet was formed long before the advent of cancel culture. We willingly surrendered our interests, opinions, and anxieties (to say nothing of personal data) before it occurred to us that all this information could used against us someday.”

          I had only a short “ты дурак” instruction from one of my elder brothers before I registered on my first on-line forum.

          “It’s a bit too late for me, though. This blog’s ripe for the cancelling. As is my Twitter. Might as well ride this ship into the rocks.”

          Can’t see anything damnable, myself… Wait – is it because of toleration of the likes of my self? Or more general “collusion with the Enemy” kind?


          1. Re: “unnatural” skepticism. I suppose you’re right. But the cliche is pervasive, innit?

            Re: Cancelfruit.

            You correctly suggest that having non-negative things to say about Russia[n politics] and not censoring the opinions of commenters of your…political persuasion…pushes the blog into heterodoxy, if not heresy. But I was thinking more about criticism of the Russian opposition and American Russia-watchers, acerbic posts a la Red Sparrow and “More on Russia in a time of confusion,” the embarrassingly bad Petersburg reflection, and other general examples of J.T. being an at times aggressive, at times self-flagellating, always in flux Eta Carinae of a blogger.

            Those kinds of outbursts on the net are the ones you later regret. And the ones cancellers don’t allow you to forget.


            Addendum 1.

            Cancel culture is primarily concerned with public figures, and make no mistake – I’m not putting myself or this ghost town of a site on the same level as them.
            For smaller fish, the consequences are different and the threat comes from elsewhere. But they exist. That’s the main thing.


            1. J.T., for me to encourage you somehow and say “Everything gonna be just fiiiiine!” would require lying. I don’t know the future, neither do I have access to the classified intelligence reports. Besides, the Internet is the *worst* possible medium for communicating hope and support to the people. You don’t need words or even opinion from some no-name Russian from another hemisphere. All my examples cited in the comments above show, that you need (not necessary good) helpful people around you. Acquired either “naturally” or by “developing” them via connections 😉

              I can’t help you with any positive input about how to avoid/live after “canceling”. Me, a person who strives to acquire (important note – not “earn”) 3 Net bans per year since… 2015?.. Help. Lol 🙂

              Life’s tough. Net life, being a simulacra of the real life, naturally, is not what’s been advertised by its proponents and benefactors. Me? Still don’t regret anything. I appreciate, J.T., of you being one of the rare souls who would tolerate the likes of me for all those years. If I would somehow cause any bad stuff to you due to the content of my posting, I will be genuinely saddened and appalled… but I won’t go back and change anything I’ve written therein on “Russia Reviewed”.

              Well, ending traditionally requires some kind of sound-bite-y proverb or useful expression. Erm… “When live gives you cannon, make a cannonade”. There!


              1. Heterodoxy, not heresy)

                It’s not your comments that would get me cancelled, it’s what I say and do. The content of a Russian statist perspective (pretty banal IMO when compared to the extremes) would be less harmful than the fact that I didn’t remove it from the comments, and therefore became complicit in “spreading” the “enemy’s” point of view.

                This…irks. Putting aside the obvious issues with conflating any Russian opinion that falls outside the Overton window with a hostile enemy opinion, one would think that excluding certain voices (especially Russian ones) is counterproductive to nuanced discussion of Russia. Not all ideas are created equal, some will need to be refined and others discarded, but we won’t know which are which if half are censored on political grounds before the conversation even begins.

                tl;dr: Promoting open discussion (with qualifiers) > protecting myself from divergent or “threatening” POVs. Better to have threads that challenge and unsettle than squeaky clean threads where nothing ever grows.

                In any case, cancellation hasn’t happened (yet), and doesn’t make sense to keep angsting about it.

                The internet is not the best place for experimenting, socializing, showing support, regretting and yes, angsting.


                Was the net-ban quota reached last year?


              2. “Was the net-ban quota reached last year?”

                Sadly – no. Only 2 “did” me ‘(. Besides, the “Sic Semper Tyrannis” moved (like – completely content wise) to another place, meaning that in theory it’s a new, ah, “opportunity”. But by now I don’t feel like even reading it, let alone “elfing” (totally the word!) in the comments.


      2. Re: The author’s “social anonymity provided by the internet”, press [x] to doubt. Maybe Bear Blog is an exception, but how can one speak of practical anonymity when even the local bargain-bin bookstore’s website is fingerprinting you?


    1. Hi, Lyt.

      The short answer: We weren’t assigned any.

      The long answer: We weren’t assigned any books in class(es), but I might’ve read short stories or articles, which I can hunt for and post in a bit.


    2. Isaac Babel, Red Cavalry (excerpt, specifically Соль; read in the context of realist lit not history)
      Nikolai Ostrovsky, How the Steel was Tempered (“outside reading” for class on Soviet history)
      Mikhail Sholokhov, And Quiet Flows the Don (read and dnfed on own time)

      Believe it or not, that’s it for fiction.


      1. Wow. Just… wow.


        Wow… Okay, I’m better now.

        That’s… a dearth of “sources” covering, perhaps, one of the most important topics in both Russian history and, consequently, Russian literature.


        What, nothing of the even “short-form” classics. like A.Tolstoy’s “Viper/Гадюка” and “Ibicus/Ибикус” or Bulgakov’s “The Days of the Turbins/Дни Турбиных” and “Flight/Бег”? The last one, btw, was Stalin’s favorite.

        I became interested and done some re-reading lately due to, ah, “series of unfortunate events” taking place in Afghanistan in this year’s August. Comparisons to the “Fall of Saigon” coming from the American commenters were predictable, understandable (due to cultural bias), but completely wrong. IMO, there is a slew of the “downfall fiction” set during the Civil War in Russia, that might be more illustrative and provide better analogies.

        I was quite surprised why no Western media platform deemed to give a platform to any of the “Russian experts” to say just that. I mean, if you have “Dostoyevsky in the Age of Trump”, why not “Ghani’s flight as a discount version of Skoropadsky’s surreal escape”:

        I have my suspicions why there is such a dearth of coverage for this time period, as opposed to, say, 1920s.


        1. Obsers I can’t speak for all American uni programs. There’s probably one out there that teaches an entire course on the Civil War in Russian literature. The course probably runs once every two years.

          I have my suspicions why there is such a dearth of coverage for this time period, as opposed to, say, 1920s.

          What are those suspicions? Because foreign intervention?


          1. What are those suspicions?

            Can’t sell it. Like – at all. There is neither market (aka target audience), nor the desire to do some “marketing”. Nor there are “good guys” with which Uni ed consumers in the West might identify with. Oh, and the stories about “The Glorious LostЪ Cause” have their own unfortunate implications in the US.

            In the ideal world none of that would matter, when you have to look at the world “as is” and try to learn some lessons. But, well… yeah.

            Things above – my opinion, of course.


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