Friday, April 12, 2019

A Translation of “Klemperers »Don Giovanni«” by Theodor W. Adorno


Klemperer’s Don Giovanni*

When a few years ago I asked Otto Klemperer how Mahler had actually conducted, he replied from precisely well-informed memory, “Completely naturally.”  What he meant by this can only be properly understood in the context of his own specific conception of the practice: he conceives of natural conducting as consisting not in nature-worship and naivety but rather in refraining from shaping, decorating, or stimulating the music from the outside in any way.  He earnestly refuses to make the music interesting; he abandons himself unreservedly to whatever is unfolding in it.  If the word objectivity [Sachlichkeit] had not become so toxic, it would be the perfect term for his ideal style of performance.  To be sure, in this mode no neo-objective attitude simply steamrolls over all musical expression and differentiation.  But Klemperer tries to help the object itself in all its richness speak in such a way that it has no need of any additional ingredients.

In his recording of Don Giovanni, Klemperer comports himself like an old man reconstituting various experiences of his youth, reconstituting them with the naturalness defined immediately above.  His modus operandi and results prove to be uncommonly sophisticated.  As a conductor he in large measure restricts himself to fulfilling a supervisory function.  On each track he establishes a kind of frame, a border, that limits capriciousness.  At the same time there are remnants of certain of his the neoclassical proclivities of the nineteen-twenties such as an aversion to rubato.  But the frame he has established affords the singers—and Klemperer conceives of Don Giovanni as a singer’s opera through and through—the freedom to develop.  All musical direction from the podium is totally relaxed.  This désinvolture on the part of the conductor stridently contrasts with the current tendency to keep a tight leash on every beat, every note, to refrain from loosening one’s grip for even a single second.  Only once, at the great caesura in the scene of the stone guest, does Klemperer intervene, in the true spirit of the baroque, and to admittedly overwhelmingly impressive effect.  The tempi are also relaxed, serene, almost never hortative, but also devoid of the slightest trace of sentimentality.  Sometimes moderate tempi are of debatable merit; especially in Don Giovanni, which contains many alla breve passages that pose difficult questions about the choice of tempo.  When informed by accumulated experience and devoid of all preciousness, even downright outlandish tempi are well-chosen.  On the other hand, whenever Klemperer does beat time more quickly in the manner made familiar by tradition, as in “Là ci darem la mano,” he makes it easier for the music to breathe and constructs quite unusual and compelling arcs of phrasing.

Although the whole maintains its supremacy over the parts, no violence is done to the latter.  The dyad of whole and parts is commensurate with the formal law of the work, the law of opera assoluta.  Formally this kind of opera presents itself as a structure composed of pieces, each of which bears its own highly particular stamp and stands out in relief from all the others in the aggregate, whereas each of them, down to the level of its latent motivic interconnections, can in fact hail from nowhere but Don Giovanni, and such duality yields the only legitimate conception of style.  But this conception emerges only in the specific content of Don Giovanni.  For the equipoising of the individuation of the work’s singularity and the stylistic unity of the whole within this content is complemented by the comportment of the work’s historical moments towards one another.  Its hero—whom the skittish dramatis personae peremptorily denigrates as “extremely licentious,” as though the composer and librettist wished to apologize for centering the work on him—is the hero of the late feudal period, whom the bourgeois age he has stumbled into brands a felon, just as it does the figurine-like characters of the Marquis de Sade.  At the same time his antiquated libertinage embodies the potential of liberty vis-à-vis the morality that is overtaking him.  As the host of a party he explicitly praises liberty even as he brazenly runs roughshod over other people’s exercise of their own liberty.  The opera succeeds because it stands at the summit of a pass between two eras.  It is the tension between these eras, not what used to be called an idea, that actuates this theater of the world.  Klemperer’s comportment submits to the multivalent multifariousness of a structure that could never be encompassed by any overarching master concept.  Moreover, there is a good reason why this opera that gravitates towards seriousness of the gloomiest sort is called a dramma giocoso; among the bourgeoisie, Don Giovanni is not only a demon, but also, according to the rules of their game, a clown.  The deeds of his phase of irresistibility belong in the opera of the past; as though he were Falstaff, he is no longer capable of bagging any new mistresses.  Although he chastises the buffoon Leporello, who leads a miserable life in his company and is incapable of breaking free of him, this servant is a mirror of his master.

The principal problem that every performance of this work must attempt to solve remains that of the relationship between the whole and its parts.  Klemperer certainly does not suffocate the parts; nevertheless, it seems to me that they would require more encouragement than he grants them in order to come into their own, in order for that all-important Own to suffer no injury.  There is no shortage of enchanting details like the unexpectedly cheeky whistles delivered by the flutes and bassoons in the catalogue aria.  On the other hand, there are certain traces of asceticism; often Mozart is displaced into the distance, as Bach tended to be back in the twenties.  This is especially evident in the orchestral playing: it is as if the great conductor were employing his left hand all too sparingly rather than judiciously in shaping measures such as the two lyrical ones in the violins in the introduction to the peasants’ chorus in the first act; one might also imagine Zerlina being allowed to segue more pliantly into the reprise of her first aria, and to sing it through less rigorously.  There is an overkill of understatement.  In an understated approach, moments of finesse must stand the test lest they receive undue emphasis.  Ask only whether they do not remain unnoticed as long as the interpretation, however discreet it may be, does not thrust them into the spotlight.

It is further necessary to consider whether the delicate threadwork of the internal structure, its innumerable subtle contrasts, should not be more intensively worked out alongside the drastic contrasts of forte and piano—as, for example, in the quotation of Figaro in the banquet scene, a quotation whose two half-phrases are decidedly no less mutually distinct than fused together into a single phrase.  Contemporary music-making, which had its first pioneer in Klemperer a full forty years ago, is ubiquitously faced with the difficultly of restoring to the individual details what was withdrawn from them in reaction to romantic practice without thereby macerating the overarching whole.  Precisely for objective plenitude’s sake, the overcoming of this difficulty entails the addition of that so-called subjective type of interpretation that Klemperer renounces on many levels on account of his reverence for the object, and by no means on account of a lack of vigor or imagination.  The problem of the reparation of detail has become so centrally the problem attending all music-making as such that no performer can be blamed for not having yet completely solved it.  It remains to be seen whether it is completely solvable.  Klemperer has contributed to the solution by never treating the musical sound as an end in itself, by never once striving for a shining and sparkling play of instrumental color, and instead unperturbedly concentrating on what is actually happening in the music.

The work is sung by an international ensemble in Italian and in a highly Italianate style, with fiery recitatives and a great deal of bel canto, in delightful contrast to the severe organization of the overall structure.  The role of Don Giovanni is performed by Nicolai Ghiaurov.  He wields his beautiful voice with great musicality and cultivation.  The fact that he seems to be a bit lacking in suggestive power may simply be owing to the intrinsic difference between records and live theater.  In his recitatives he perhaps does a bit too much of a good thing with his menacing laugh, or rather with his surrogate for a joie de vivre that is fishy in any case.  What is missing from the breathless champagne aria is the essential art of letting it out in a deluge while at the same time expressing its subtlest nuances.
Christa Ludwig as Elvira conquers the center of the work by dint of pure musical quality.  Thanks to her vocal artistry and expressive articulation, this singer has become one of the most significant mezzosopranos available to contemporary musical theater; over the last few years she has acquired a warmth that overflows and envelops the listener.  The great arias “Ah! mi dice mai” and “Mi tradi quell’alma ingrata” are true pièces de résistance.  If possible they are even surpassed by the andantino trio in A major in the second act, probably the finest composition in the opera in virtue of its wealth of musical figures and perfectly balanced multifariousness, and Ms. Ludwig is absolutely dominant in this recorded performance of it.  The role of Donna Anna is sung by Claire Watson.  The level of expansiveness and intensity that her soprano voice manages to attain is admirable, but one cannot fail to notice that she is in danger of overexerting herself a bit, which danger is admittedly but the flipside of her intrinsically quite legitimate tendency not to be tied down to stereotypical notions about the role.  Her voice is scarcely powerful enough for the grandly dramatic passages.  Her coloratura lacks the sovereignty and security requisite to them, especially in the aria “Non mi dire,” with whose allegro section’s notorious exigencies Ms. Watson is not quite capable of coping. A coloratura singer in the grand manner must present what she has to give with a degree of facility and amplitude that seems to dash off the most neck-breaking runs with playful cavalierness; when coloratura is merely up to par, it is already failing to keep pace with coloratura as an ideal.  The double-sided character of the dramatic and coloratura soprano was self-evident in Mozart’s time.  Under present conditions it is scarcely reasonable to expect it: this is an inescapable historical limitation on any possible performance of Don Giovanni.  Mirella Freni’s Zerlina sings prettily and with great purity, although her singing does not contrast with that of the other women as vividly as the role demands here; for the sake of realizing the long-playing record as a form, the timbres of the various singers should be almost excessively distinct from one another, because of course it is these timbres alone that define the characters here.  Mr. Berry manages to be a buffoonesque Leporello without overacting so much as a jot.  As Don Ottavio, Mr. Gedda rises to the occasion with the quantity of good breeding that only that bridegroom’s bridegroom is capable of mustering; Mr. Monatarsolo makes his Masetto an old-school yokel; the great commendatore is Franz Crass.  They are all accompanied by London’s New Philharmonia Orchestra. Klemperer’s conception relegates the orchestra to a subsidiary function, which it willingly serves; understandably, the orchestra does not emanate much spontaneity.  The instrumental basslines occasionally sound a bit lackluster; acoustic conditions may be to blame for this.

It must not be forgotten that as a performance destined to be listened to on the gramophone, this one takes advantage of its exemption from all theatrical considerations by exhibiting very few cuts.  If I am not mistaken, apart from a few genuinely dispensable secco recitatives, the only thing that is missing is Zerlina and Leporello’s duet in the second act—presumably an addendum, as is suggested by the number it bears in the score.  It would be instructive to compare the original Italian text with the standard German version, which instantly made the libretto unambiguously safe for middle-class consumption.

Klemperer retains the final scene, the one following the Don’s descent into Hell, owing to a neoclassical, and specifically Cocteauean, intellectual predilection for conventions that ultimately dates back to Nietzsche, to his hostility to Wagnerian music drama.  Since then the notion of restoring the topos of the happy ending merely because it would be good to have such an ending has ceased to be tenable.  The grandeur of the commendatore scene imperiously overshadows everything that has preceded it in the performance; anything that the restorative impulse allows to follow it cannot but be anticlimactic.  No appeal to style can exert any sway over a work that from atop its lofty pinnacle overrules its own stylistic principle.  The feebleness of the major-mode finale is no felicitous return to form: it attests to the extent to which Mozart has lost the power to bring the dixhuitième back to life.  The finale ought to be omitted from all live, staged performances; any attempt to rationalize it as an exercise in irony will tend to undermine rather than fortify its claim to aesthetic merit.  In any case, should the ominous criterion of fidelity to the work itself be invoked as decisive, it must be remembered that Mozart himself sanctioned this cut.  The work must be protected from the incursions of a forced naivety, a naivety that the commendatore scene—the last of the baroque allegories of premundane creation—retroactively damns as unregenerate silliness.

Anyone determined to listen to Don Giovanni with a fully attentive consciousness—to listen to it categorically, so to speak—will find Klemperer’s discs inexhaustible.



Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2019 by Douglas Robertson

THE END


Source:  Theodor W. Adorno, Gesammelte Werke, Rolf Tiedemann, ed. in collaboration with Gretel Adorno, Susan Buck-Morss, and Klaus Schultz (Suhrkamp: Frankfurt am Main, 1986; Directmedia: Berlin, 2003), Vol. 19, pp. 539ff.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

To Russia with Lunch--Part One


“Sleep, my dear Chevalley, sleep, that is what Sicilians want, and they will always hate anyone who tries to wake them, even in order to bring them the most wonderful of gifts; and I must say, between ourselves, I have strong doubts whether the new Kingdom will have many gifts for us in its luggage.  All Sicilian expression, even the most violent, is really wish-fulfillment: our sensuality is a hankering for oblivion, our shooting and knifing a hankering for death; our laziness, our spiced and drugged sherbets, a hankering for voluptuous immobility, that is, for death again; our meditative air is that of a void wanting to scrutinize the enigmas of nirvana.  That is what gives power to certain people among us, to those who are half awake: that is the cause of the well-known time lag of a century in our artistic and intellectual life; novelties attract us only when they are dead, incapable of arousing vital currents; that is what gives rise to the extraordinary phenomenon of the constant formation of myths which would be venerable if they were really ancient, but which are really nothing but sinister attempts to plunge us back into a past that attracts us only because it is dead. […] Two or three days before Garibaldi entered Palermo I was introduced to some British naval officers from one of the warships then in the harbor to keep an eye on things. […] They came to my house, I accompanied them up on to the roof; they were simple youths, in spite of their reddish whiskers.  They were ecstatic about the view, the light; they confessed, though, that they had been horrified at the squalor and filth of the streets around.  I didn’t explain to them that one thing was derived from the other, as I have tried to with you.  Then one of them asked me what those Italian volunteers were really coming to do in Sicily.  They are coming to teach us good manners,” I replied in English.  But they won’t succeed, because we think we are gods.’”

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard (Il Gattopardo), translated by Archibald Colquhoun (Pantheon: New York, 1960, 2007), pp. 177-178; 182-183.

*

Although I am insufferably enough about to begin an essay yet again—for the umpteen-to-the-umpteenth-power time—on a personal note, this time I shall not even bother trying to contrive the wispiest ghost of apology for such a beginning, inasmuch as the personalness of the note is purely contingent, inasfurthermuch as the phenomena (sic because plural) I am about to report on from a personal point of view should by all rights be familiar at the barest-bones minimum to the totality of still-living sentient adults over the age of forty and the majority of all still-living adults whether they are old enough or not to have experienced them at first sensorium.  Admittedly the by-all-rights-ness is going to be a bit of a hard sell vis-à-vis the second subclass of the second class of adults—viz., those who are not old enough to have experienced the phenomena in question at first sensorium, inasmuch as current received opinion seems bizarrely to maintain that no human being, however intelligent or inquisitive he or she may be, is able, let alone willing, let further alone eager, to acquire even the most cursory understanding of any historical epoch or micro-epoch antedating his or her birth.  I personally—but only contingently personally, mind you—flatter myself that I have an understanding of the forces, personages, and events in play during, for example, the so-called McCarthy period, which ended nearly two decades before my birth, that is sufficiently near-comprehensive to allow me, supposing I were transported back to that micro-epoch, to acquit myself persuasively as either a booster or a detractor of the HUAC in any soda counter or juke joint in the then-48 states.   And there are even more distant micro-epochs (and not only of American history) on whose signature institutions and hot-button issues I flatter myself I could weigh in with comparable persuasiveness as a temporal transplant; I flatter myself that I would have something both intelligible and plausible to say about the retention or rejection of the gold standard during the 1896 U.S. presidential campaign, the comparative desirability of a Stuart versus a Hanoverian succession in the Britain of the first decade of the eighteenth century, and the comparative desirability of a Stuart restoration versus a continuation of the Cromwellian protectorate in the Britain of the late 1650s.  And I flatter myself that I am within my rights to flatter myself on the score of all these micro-epochs because like virtually every other literate person in the recent-to-present United States, I have free or at worst very inexpensive access to reputable historiographers’ accounts of these earlier periods, and further, for fact-checking purposes, to a vast archive of documents dating from these earlier periods themselves.  Hence, I am not by any means a prisoner of my age, let alone my so-called generation, in any epistemologically substantive sense, and I am effectively no more compelled to derive my overall or basic Weltansicht from current received opinion than I am to derive my musical tastes from the latest Billboard pop singles charts.  But inasmuch as received opinion is after all received opinion, and received opinion now holds that we are all prisoners of our respective so-called generations, although the phenomena I am about to expound on were among the most mediatically conspicuous, the most electronically hyper-hyped, of their day, I effectively have no more right to expect any reader born since 1976 to be conversant with them than I have to expect him or her to be aware of, say, the artist and song-title associated with, say, Billboard pop singles chart-position No. 54 in the second week of  July 1985 (please don’t ask me of all 46-year-olds for the names of that artist and song-title, as my personal 54th-favorite track in that week was Ferenc Fricsay’s version of Smetana’s Moldau).  As for readers born in or before 1976, although even current received opinion would probably vouchsafe me the right to expect them to be conversant with the phenomena prospectively in question, I am highly disinclined to exercise this right in the light of a certain super-sized matzoh ball-sized empirical datum--v iz., my observation that virtually every person in the Anglosphere whom I know either personally or by reputation talks and behaves as though he or she were utterly oblivious of these phenomena, and, indeed, as though in some sort of hypnotic state he or she had had these phenomena erased from his or her memory and then been force-fed a collection of utterly logically incompatible pseudo-phenomena (although for reasons that may become clear in the further course of this essay, I am no great fan of The Manchurian Candidate, I shan’t be so arrant a chicken thief as to forbear acknowledging that movie as the sole source of the forgoing mini-conceit).  The phenomena in question are the opinions received some thirty to thirty-five years ago regarding the country or federation of countries then known in the Anglosphere variously as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Soviet Union, and (always contentiously but by no means always naively) Russia.  My presumptively unaltered memory avers to me that back then, in the early-to-mid-1980s, although in the Anglosphere attitudes towards this country or federation of countries varied greatly across the so-called political spectrum (or perhaps, rather, gamut of so-called political spectra, supposing that even within the Anglosphere every country or federation of countries has its own scalable yet infungible political spectrum), from an equation of the USSR autc. with the dominion of the Antichrist and its leader with the Dark Lord himself on the so-called far-right (or Far Right) to an inclination to drop every semblance of an adversarial stance to the USSR autc. and embrace its political system H,L&S (or L,S&B) on the so-called far left (or Far Left), a set of assumptions about Russia autc. was shared by virtually everybody, by each and every man, woman, and child Jack and Jill  père, mère, fille, und fils of us.  It was assumed by everybody that the USSR autc. was an important demographic-cum-geographical-cum-political entity, and indeed for everybody the question whether the USSR autc. or the USA was the most important such entity in the world was very much a tossup, given that although the USA undoubtedly enjoyed an appreciably higher so-called standard of living than the USSR autc., the USSR autc. undoubtedly enjoyed a much bigger landmass than the USA (and indeed was the most geographically extensive demographic-cum-geographic-cum-political entity in the world), a comparably sizeable (ca. 200 million souls-strong and at minimum unshrinking) population, a significantly larger standing army, and last but assuredly not least, an always competitively sizeable and often substantially larger arsenal of domestically designed-and-built nuclear weapons (q.v.).  It was further assumed that the Soviet (or Russian) people, or the average Soviet (or Russian) citizen, or Vanya or Masha Stolichnaya, was or were not to be blamed for his, her, or their country’s or federation of countries’ geopolitical or domestic-political shortcomings and that these shortcomings were entirely the fault of the Soviet (or Russian) State’s enthrallment to (so the Anglophone right/Right) or perversion of (so the Anglophone left/Left) the Marxist-Leninist political philosophy upon which the USSR autc.’s government had been founded way back in 1917; that if this philosophy should ever be either extirpated from the Soviet government’s constitution (r/R-ight) or actualized along non-repressive lines (l/L-eft), the Soviet (or Russian) people’s inherent and ineradicable kindness, magnanimity, gemütlichkeit, and all-around savoir-vivre would then come gushing forth like, well (admittedly I am getting a bit ahead of myself via the vehicle of this-here simile) a veritable geyser of life-giving petroleum from the world’s most munificently girthed and tumescent oil pipeline.  Whatever the intrinsic shortcomings of their political system (r/R-ight) or of the paltry handful or so (or, po russki, kuchka) of kleptocrats lamentably and contingently then standing at the helm of their fundamentally admirably redoubtable Socialist Ship of State (l/L-eft), the Soviet (or Russian) people autc., so it was universally averred, were at bottom completely indistinguishable from us Anglophone Occidentals even in the very mitochondria of their ethical makeup.  The establishment and cultivation of a pen-palship with some Soviet (and Russian) near-to-exact contemporary was encouraged in every schoolroom and VFW hall from Juneau, Alaska to the Dunedins of both New Zealand and Florida, and many, many a cis-Iron Curtainian epistolary Genosse thereby begotten was heard to aver that were by some well-nigh-divine-cum-natural law-defying cause the USSR autc. to become a properly democratic country or federation of countries, he or she would engage in coition with his or her Soviet (or Russian) counterpart no fewer than five times regardless of his or her (i.e., the cis-Iron Curtainian’s) degree of corporeal attraction or aversion to him or her (i.e., the trans-Iron Curtainian) and purely as a series of manifestations of his or her (i.e., the cis-Iron Curtainian’s) uncontainable jouissance at the quasi-literal tectonic shift in the ethical infrastructure of the geopolitical landscape (or the geopolitical superstructure of the ethical landscape).  The entire apparent Weltgeist of the inhabitants of the so-called developed West (a.k.a. the so-called Free World) vis-à-vis their fellow earthlings living under Soviet (or Russian) dominion was epitomized by and in Gordon Sumner (a.k.a. Sting)’s 1985 Billboard chart near-topper (it peaked at No. 16, which rather surprises me, as at the time it seemed to be on the radio constantly and consequently remains one of the very few songs of 1985 I remember as well as Smetana’s “Moldau”) “Russians,” which repeatedly voiced the whinging categorical assertion masquerading as a tentative “hope” that “the Russians love their children too.”  Five to six years later, the well-nigh-divine-cum-natural law-defying cause supervened, at least formally: the USSR suddenly morphed into the Commonwealth of Independent States which no less suddenly (and after a period of existence not much longer than that of one of those artificial chemical elements that Soviet and Anglo-American physicists alike had such a knack for concocting and holding together for a millisecond or two in their laboratories) effectively disintegrated into a mere congeries of geographically contiguous but politically completely mutually unaffiliated nation-States, and every single one of these nation-States, including the former Russian Federated Soviet Socialist Republic was at least nominally a non-denominational parliamentary democracy—meaning a republic with a legislature answerable to the will of the electors regardless of that will’s degree of conformity to a political philosophy such as socialism or communism.  But the great supposedly immediately attendant intercontinental love-fest did not subsequently materialize: indeed, in hindsight, one is struck by the fact that although the USSR was both the headquarters and Big Kahuna of international Communism, in the West its political dissolution was greeted almost with apathy by comparison with the tsunami of orgasmic elation that (had) swept over us all the instant the first pickaxe hit the Berlin Wall two years earlier.  In the memory of the present writer, the fall of the Berlin Wall was signalized by the mandatorily (yet gratefully) viewed telecast of that remarkable ad-hoc intermural performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under the baton of Leonard Bernstein, a performance in which the maestro audaciously—yet at the time quite seemingly justly—substituted Freiheit for Freude in the vocal finale; and the fall of the Soviet Union by one of the present writer’s college classmates’ announcing with lackadaisical matter-of-factness between bong-hits that the name of Leningrad had reverted to St. Petersburg.  And the contrast in the scale of reaction to the two events was very much just that stark.  “And quite rightly so,” the (present) reader may be tempted to interject, “given that throughout this decade-straddling period it was the dissolution of the Communist system that was being welcomed in the West and that that dissolution happened to begin at the Brandenburg Gate rather than in Red Square.”  But such an interjection would merely bespeak the reader’s abject (or perhaps proud) supineness towards current received Anglospheric opinion on Russia and his or her utter incapacity to recollect or apprehend the Spirit of ’85, for as I have already made clear enough to anyone willing to remember or apprehend that Spirit, in 1985 it was not the Communist system as such, but rather the Communist system qua enchainer of a great and loveable nation or people, the Russian nation or people, that we Anglo-Saxons wished to see abolished.  In 1985 (here I am launching into a second attempt to persuade the reader to enter into the Spirit by delving into the geopolitical fine grain) the citizenry of East Germany and other Warsaw Pact countries’ enchainment by the Communist system, while undoubtedly lamentable, was of peripheral significance because as nations or peoples or quasi- or semi-peoples, the Poles, East Germans, et al. were but the smallest of small fry to us Anglophones.  This small-fryishness is evident when one takes cognizance of the considerable liberalization (or Westernization) of the laws and policies governing civil rights and liberties in certain of the so-called Soviet satellites in the years leading up to the fall of the BW.  I remember round about 1987 hearing some pundit on National Public Radio remark that in Poland you can get away with saying pretty much anything, and from the Polish so-called cultural artifacts of the 1970s and 80s that I have since become acquainted with—notably the music of Lutosławski’s late period and the movies of Kieślowski’s middle period—I infer that this assertion was well-founded.  Certainly L’s wildly aleatoric orchestral works were much weirder and hard-listening than anything in Shostakovich’s corpus, and in his Dekalogs (at least in the Trilog or Tetralog thereof that I have so far seen) K. certainly did not go out of his way to make Poland seem an ideal tourist destination.  In Hungary there seems to have been even greater license to criticize the governing political dispensation, as witnessed by the novels of Laszlo Krasznahorkai and the movies of his pal and eventual collaborator Bela Tarr.  Tarr’s early (ca. 1977-1985) films were apparently domestically hailed as masterpieces of socialist realism, and inasmuch as they dealt with the quotidian life-situations of so-called ordinary people they undoubtedly were, but insofar as socialist realism entails the presentation of such life-situations in a positive and encouraging light, and thereby as an affirmation of the socialist powers that be, they were anything but: in Tarr’s films the life-situations of average Hungarians are almost uniformly depicted in such unremittingly grim and hopeless colors (or, more often, grayscales), and with such meticulous attention to the bureaucratic minutiae with which these average Hungarians have to contend perpetually—and almost invariably futilely—that the viewer cannot help concluding that the filmmaker is ascribing the brunt of the blame for his characters’ misery to the entire so-called system, in this case an avowedly and inalterably socialist (i.e., Communist) system.  (At one point in one of these early Tarr flicks, a middle-aged father attempts to give his preteen son a kind of lecture on the geopolitical facts of life, a lecture on the difference between Capitalism and Communism, only to trail off in a mixture of boredom and confusion within a half a minute.) As for Krasznahorkai’s two novelistic masterpieces of the 1980s, Satantango and The Melancholy of Resistance—well, let’s just say that their joint depiction of the Hungarian populace and political system makes Deliverance and All the President’s Men look like triumphal tributes to the American way of life.  And it must not be forgotten that the closest thing to the fall of the Berlin Wall’s    immediate efficient cause—namely the opening of the Austro-Hungarian border, which effectively allowed any Eastern-Bloc resident with the wherewithal to make it to Hungary to defect to the West—was initiated by the Hungarian government.  And it must not be forgotten my embarrassed mouth-embedded foot!  The truth—as in all candor I realized only after typing the last full sentence—is that barring an admittedly not especially improbable onset of dementia praecox I am guaranteed not to forget about the Hungarian government’s catalytic role in the fall of the Wall anytime soon, having learned of it only some five years ago.  The truth is that the fall of the Wall struck me like a so-but-in-this-case-aptly called bolt out of the blue (blue being the classic symbolic antithesis of red, which is, or rather used to be, the color of international Communism [its recent transmogrification into the signature color of conservative domestic Republicanism is not the least sad of scads of attestations to our collective oblivion of even the most conspicuous semiotic paraphernalia of even very recent history])—as I suspect it did every other Anglosphere-inhabitant not in the grip of a hobby-horsical obsession with the domestic policies of extra-Soviet Warsaw Pact countries.  The proof of this bolt-out-of-the-blue-ish-ness resides in the fact that for me the Wall-Fall was one of those events about which, as they say, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I learned of it—viz., lolling in bed after having slept in, as they say, presumably on the morning of Saturday, November 11 (I had evidently missed all the previous day’s news broadcasts), and hearing an announcer on our local so-called community radio station, WMNF, to which my bedside wireless had been tuned overnight, say something to the effect of, “Next, in celebration of the fact that the Berlin Wall is now open, we’re going to play [some extremely famous celebratory pop song whose name escapes me after the reliable fashion of the at-first-blush most memorable components of these sorts of memories].”  Thitherto like those of all other Americans in the grip of a, shall we say?, hobby-ponyial interest in goings-on behind the Iron Curtain-cum(shall we say?) heroin-horse-like dread of nuclear annihilation, all my hopes for an East-West reconciliation—still very faint hopes, to be sure–had been actuated by certain recent changes in the USSR, by General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev (not to be confused with Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar)’s agreement to substantial reductions in the Soviet nuclear arsenal and his institution of domestic political and economic reforms under the auspices of two things called glasnost and perestroika (respectively, I believe, but please don’t cite me as a source).  Although we Americans in the grip of this obsession-cum-dread had little or no notion of what glasnost and perestroika concretely entailed for Vanya and Masha Stolichnaya, we were confident that they were making everyday life substantially easier for the couple and, what was even more significant, enabling them better to express and embody their innate and radically incorruptible goodness—their indomitable moral and intellectual virtue—in every conceivable field of human activity.  And if even as late as November 9, 1989, we had been asked by, say, a betting-shop owner to describe the process most likely to eventuate in an end to the so-called Cold War, we doubtless would have described a scenario wherein ever-weightier and fattier dollops of glasnost and perestroika administered from above would gradually—very gradually, over a period of perhaps twenty years—transform the Soviet Union into an utterly wholesome and quiescently productive modern Western nation state-cum-territory-cum-society, its heartland studded with prosperous mid-density cities entirely indistinguishable from Mayfield, Levittown, and Milton Keynes barring the Cyrillic lettering on their shop-fronts and traffic signs.  Events, or, rather, pseudo-events, in the so-called satellite countries were worthy of no notice in our eyes, for after all, we assumed, would not the governments of these countries simply follow each and every cue and toe every line-segment supplied to them by Moscow?  Quite self-evidently right up until November 9, 1989 we were all sorely afflicted with a gargantuan geopolitical blind spot, or perhaps, to put it more justly if less elegantly, with a fairly sizeable geopolitical blind spot acting in concert with a fairly serious case of geopolitical tone-deafness—for we were all aware, to some extent, of the glasnost and perestroika-dwarfing liberality in full-flower in certain of the satellite States (of, e.g., the Polish government’s above-mentioned de facto chartering of freedom of speech), and merely failed to give it its world-historical due.  “In other words, you are at last acknowledging the justness of my earlier interjected assertion to the effect that in the Anglosphere the collapse of the Soviet Union was greeted with all the enthusiasm it deserved—namely precious little.”  Not quite, or perhaps not in the slightest.  For it by no means follows that merely because the death blow to the international Communist dispensation was not ultimately administered by glasnost, perestroika, START I, or indeed any other element of the Gorbachevian project, that this project was inherently wrongheaded or that its admirers either within the Soviet Union or without were simply simpletons—partial ignoramuses, undoubtedly, but simpletons, not necessarily.   Yes, the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late summer and early autumn of 1991 was effectively greeted in the Anglosphere with a mere collective shrug, but this may testify more eloquently to the collective egocentricity of the shruggers than to the intrinsic triviality of the shrugged-about phenomenon.  It is in point of fact conceivable that the Anglosphere’s comparative apathy toward the Soviet Implosion of mid-to-late ’91 was owing to an event that the Soviet Union had had nothing to do with, that indeed might as well have taken place on another planet as far as the Soviet domestic political situation was concerned—namely, the first so-called Gulf War, whose jaw-drop-inducingly eloquent (albeit ultimately wearisome and offensive) demonstration of the overwhelming telegenically spectacular technological might of the United States’ armed forces—a demonstration these forces had not been so unreservedly vouchsafed since the Second World War—effectively preemptively rendered every succeeding geopolitical event of 1991 a nonstarter public opinion-wise.  In the aftermath of the first so-called Gulf War, the entire geopolitical landscape could have been reshuffled—with France reverting to a Bourbonist monarchy, Turkey to a sultanate, North Korea transmuting into a Swiss-style republic, Switzerland into a North Korea-style totalitarian dictatorship, etc.–and not elicited the obtusest eyebrow arch from the North American or British public, provided that none of these revolutions involved the obliteration of any large buildings by so-called smart bombs.  “Again, I say, this just proves that the Soviet Union deserved every inch of Occi-occidental cold shoulder it received.  If in the autumn of 1990 (i.e., the period of consolidation of the at least nominally multinational coalition that ousted Iraq from Kuwait in January 1991) the USSR gave a genuine tinker’s tosslet about retaining its telegenic hold on the Anglospheric viewing public, it should have stepped up to the plate and joined in the festivities, either by assuming its traditional (at least by comparison with the US’s ever-changing, weather-cock like disposition to Saddam &co.) role as Iraq’s foremost champion or becoming the U.S.’s senior junior partner in Operations Desert Shield and Storm.  As it did neither, it had only itself to blame for the occultation of its own restaging of the 1989 revolution qua multi-media spectacle.”  Here, again, and specifically for the third time, I am aghast at and exasperated by my default reader’s—or, as I have addressed him or her for literally micro-ages (i.e., much more than a decade) in numerous contexts, Dear Gentle Reader (DGR)’s—enthrallment to post hoc propter hoc-driven Whiggism, by his or her assumption that whatever course of action in the past would have proved most expeditious to the realization of “our” own designs (I employ our in so-called scare-quotes in preference to naked roman their because in my present Lebenswelt their interpellation of me as one of them is far less eluctable than, say, my interpellation as a man by another man) was perforce not only the only prudent but also the only morally justifiable CoA for other parties to pursue, and that the subsequent success of “our” designs—however rickety (i.e., provisional and equivocal) that success may be—is proof positive that those who pursued designs in any way not assimilable to “our” designs—no matter how Cracker Jack and splendiferous these other designs may have been in point of both intrinsic desirability and realizability—were unregenerate suckers, chumps, losers, rogues, scoundrels, and, indeed, only barely figurative dung beetle-shunned turds.  And this seemingly de facto terminal recurrence of craven Whig-humpery on the part of the DGR impels me to conclude that I am going to have to dispense with his or her services for the duration of the present essay, which is a pity because contrary to what a plurality if not outright majority of my empirical readers doubtless think, the DGR is not merely some twee device for showing, or rather attempting to show—presumably ever-more futilely—what a clever fellow I supposedly am (via, say, a practical appropriation of the Bakhtinian concept of heteroglossia), but rather the most efficient and productive engine I have yet alighted on (admittedly there may be more efficient and productive engines that I happen not to have alighted on yet) for advancing my argument in every conceivable family-friendly sense of the gerund—moving the argument along towards its conclusion, making a case for it, and taking it to a so-called higher level (doubtless among several other equally pertinent senses that happen to escape me now).  The DGR advances my argument in all these senses by enabling me to forestall or obviate misinterpretations—presumably not all misinterpretations but quite likely most of the most obvious and devastating ones, which—admittedly counterintuitively—are quite often one and the same.  If I am (or were) penning a philippic against, say, tigers in the obsolete and recondite Balzacian sense—i.e., a philippic against sexually aggressive young male aristocrats habitually on the prowl during the Bourbon Restoration micro-epoch—it is (or would be) naturally imperative to establish in the empirical reader’s mind that I am (or would be) referring to tigers neither in the primitive zoological sense nor in the derived emblematic sense as the name of the aggregated members of Detroit’s senior (or perhaps even sole) professional baseball team, because of course both of the last two senses are almost inevitably going to be more familiar and obvious to him or her than the Balzacian one (yes, even if he or she is neither a zoologist nor a resident of Detroit and at the same time the world’s most dedicated Balzac scholar or fan).  And the DGR can help me effect this needful blinkering of the empirical reader’s hermeneutic horizon by simply asking me at the virtual outset if I am not writing about tigers qua animals or tigers qua Detroit baseball-team members.  Of course I could simply explain that I am not writing about tigers qua either non-Balzacian entity-set, and in the case of something so quickly explainable I doubtless would do just that (the essaying of a case actually typically exacting a DGR-intervention, a case of something only very slowly explainable, is not practicably adducible here, inasmuch as its adduction would itself almost ineluctably exact the intervention of a DGR), but were I to do just that at each and every moment such hermeneutic blinkering was required, my already syntactically hyper-involuted and digression-sclerotic prose idiom (for which I shall tender no apologies, as the involution and sclerosis, although lamentable in themselves, are peremptorily exacted by the Ding an sich [the physiological analogues chez the organisms of such-and-such persons engaged in such-and-such activities are both too obvious and numerous to enumerate]) would overtax the most indulgent empirical reader’s patience.   So even more fundamentally than as an aide-explication (or aide d’explication), the DGR functions as a kind of prosodic safety valve interspersing my hypotactic longueurs with a bit of doubtless much-craved if not necessarily even ever so little-needed paratactic brevity.  And so it is with some commiseration with the empirical reader that I am dispensing with the DGR’s services for the balance of the present essay—with some commiseration, yes, but admittedly not with a great deal let alone shed loads thereof, for thus far in the present essay the DGR has been behaving atypically like a spot-on statistical composite of my prospectively actual empirical readers, or to put it another way, like almost everyone to whom I have tried to air my views on the ought-to-be-even if it isn’t-so called Russian situation in the past, say, nine years—since, in other words, some indefinable point between the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Russian military intervention in the Ossetian part of northern Georgia—he or she has been behaving, in other words, like a knee-jerk Russophobe-cum-unregenerate Russo-ignoramus who is quite simply utterly undeserving of interpellation-cum-acknowledgment as a fellow quasi-enlightened adult and who must accordingly be treated as an utterly alien, refractory, and benighted schoolchild.  “Conceivably fair enough, but if I may be vouchsafed one parting interjection in the character of an old-school DGR—“ –Most certainly (he said with insufferably manifestly self-indulgent affected good grace)— “Thank you (he or she said with insufferably manifestly unaffected selfless good grace).  My question (and I am confident, in the light of the hundreds of words you have devoted to establishing your didactic prerogative in “Against Intralingual Diversity,” that you will not take the question amiss) is quite simply, ‘Given that you intend to treat my empirical counterparts as mere schoolchildren, on what ethical (in the rhetorical sense) grounds have you assumed the position of schoolmaster on all subjects or topics bearing (pun very much intended) on Russia?’—or to put it another way, ‘Whence the s***ing f**k do you get off berating the most Russo-ignorant members of the great Anglospheric reading public for their opinions on Russia (nay, whence do you even derive the s**ing side to assert that Russian is important enough to have a much-coveted situation appended to it)?’  Have you perchance—and perchance on the grounds that if you told us you would have to kill us—been concealing a longstanding appointment as a senior fellow of Kremlinology at the Armand Hammer-Hoover Institute?’”  No, I have not, and the source of my side-cum-off-getting on these Russoursine topics is simply that furnished by a pair of Anglospheric eyes and ears trained fairly attentively, to the extent that the various distances entailed by my position have permitted, on the Soviet Union and its contributing and succeeding political entities over a period of some thirty-six years.  “Meaning since you were the age of ten?”  Although that is one more question than I vouchsafed you, I shall condescend to vouchsafe it with its candid, frank, and truthful answer—namely, Yes.  And before you leap in with a this-time utterly impermissible second post-permitted question to the effect of “Are you sh***ing me?” let me assure you that I am by no means sh***ing you and express no small amount of bemusement at the supposition that I even might be sh***ing you.  If it is within the capacity of a ten-year-old to maintain and cultivate a collection of hundreds of so-called action figures based on characters, sub-characters, and mere bits of animated flotsam from the top-grossing summer  sci-fi or cartoon zoological schlockbuster franchise, or to follow the playing-field statistical fortunes of each and every one of dozens of teams and hundreds of team-members comprising the core personnel of a professional athletic organization, it should also be within his or her capacity to follow the domestic and international political situation of a single country as reported on in and by the traditional so-called media outlets.  And not only is such a pursuit within a ten-year-old’s capacity, it is also certainly no more intrinsically perverse a pursuit for him or her than are the more traditional tykish avocations–for whereas the killing off of some fictional dayglo scimitar-wielding pseudo-samurai or the sacking or outstriking of some schlub of a quarterback or designated hitter can have no immediate material bearing on a ten-year-old’s well-being, the activities of a foreign State, particularly one as powerful as the USSR in the early 1980s, do more than occasionally bid not unfairish to ruin his or her whole day.  All that is really requisite to the average ten-year-old’s becoming as much of a lay authority on a given country as that country’s most zealous forty-year-old non-professional fan is the will to direct as much attention to that country as he or she might otherwise be directing to athletics or toys or movies or whatever else.  And I am certain that at some point less than six months and a fortnight after my tenth birthday I acquired at least the rudiments of that will vis-à-vis the then Soviet Union or USSR.  How can I be so sure that this acquisition took place before I turned 10.5342(…)?  Why, because I distinctly remember seeing Leonid Brezhnev’s photograph on the front page of the Tampa Tribune and asking my mother who he was, and her replying, “He’s the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union [or USSR {or possibly even Union of Soviet Socialist Republics].”  It may very well have been the sheer portentous verbosity of Mr. Brezhnev’s job title that drew me into the hobby or pastime of–well, what shall one call it?—Russeme- or Sovieteme-spotting, I suppose.  At any rate, whenever this inaugural encounter with the image of the living Mr. Brezhnev occurred, my Sovieteme-spotting jones was certainly in full flower by the date of his death (whence the terminus ad quem of my 10.5342[…]th birthday, which fell on Mr. Brezhnev’s Todestag of November 10, 1982), because I can remember avidly taking in one of the big three U.S. television networks’ coverage of the aftermath of that death, on either November 11 or 13 (depending on whether Veterans Day, the eleventh, which fell on a Thursday that year, was a school holiday in my county-cum-district that year, for I am sure I saw the broadcast at home [according to the usual source, Yuri Andropov was appointed the new General Secretary on the 12th, but I have so far not been able to be a**ed to track down the date of the official announcement of that appointment]) and in particular its inclusion of a brief eavesdropped live satellite feed of the big one Soviet television network’s coverage of that aftermath, a feed which showed a symphony orchestra in full evening dress performing what the American commentator described as “somber Tchaikovsky music” (again, as with the radio song commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall, I have lamentably forgotten the name of the performed piece if I ever knew it—although in this case perhaps that information is more easily recoverable and perhaps will be recovered when I can next be a***d to G****le away a half an hour or so at Y** T**e).  Even at the time it was obvious to me that the feed was being included in order to make a political point, to demonstrate the unpardonable secretiveness-cum-administrative inefficiency of the Soviet leadership: if, the commentator implied, the surviving members of the Politburo had trusted the Soviet people as any confidently legitimate governmental regime ought to trust its governees, they would have contrived to fill the airwaves with something more revelatory of the procedures leading to the selection of a new general secretary than the round-the-clock Tchaikovsky, which was effectively serving as a giant DO NOT DISTURB sign incorporating a gargantuan glyph of an erect middle finger (my conceit, not the commentator’s).  And in hindsight, it also seems to me that there was an additional subtext to the feed-inclusion, a mediatic subtext perhaps no more subcutaneous than the political one, a subtext to the effect that if the Soviet broadcasting executives had really known how to produce a proper television program, at such a moment they would have come up with a much more resourceful or creative idea than simply dragging a camera down to the Bolshoi or the Mariinsky or wherever and pointing it at the house band; that they would instead now be affording their viewers visually lavish chapel-to-graveside coverage of a State funeral liberally interlarded with, say, interviews with the late executive’s political cronies, high-school football coach, et al.; a subtext indicative of a general assumption that has long been pandemic chez nous Anglo-Saxons and that I shall have occasion to address at length in these pages, the assumption that in every profession and walk of life the Soviets, and the Russians after them, were and are worthy of immeasurable scorn and ridicule simply for doing things in a less spectacular, less up-to-date, and above all less expensive manner than their Anglospheric counterparts.  But at the time (remember—November 11 or 13, 1982) the prevailing impression made on me by the feed was one that cut quite across the grain(s) of both the political and the mediatic subtexts in being an entirely favorable impression: as a budding if not burgeoning classical music buff (see “Weasel Goes the Pop” for the so-called back-story) I was entirely favorably impressed by the fact that the Soviets were seeing fit to mourn the death of their leader exclusively through the music of Russia’s greatest composer.  Whether I was then yet at all aware of any of the decidedly culturally downmarket typical products of the Soviet cultural mill, of any of the socialist-realist murals, novels, movies, cantatas, etc. unalloyedly and unremittingly celebrative of the collective Soviet Socialist Way of Life, is impossible to say from this temporal distance, but whether I was or not, the Tchaikovskyan obsequies to Brezhnev implanted in my mind a supposition that no subsequent acquaintance with the actual quotidian cultural diet of the empirical Soviet citizen could ever shake–a supposition, namely, that the Soviets—meaning prevailingly but by no means exclusively the Russians—had laudably held on to a kind of society-wide, subculturally transcendent reverence of so (and for the most part rightly)-called high art that we Anglo-Saxons had long since blithely and perhaps even enthusiastically renounced in favor of the deplorable (and entirely rightly called) mass-cultural likes of Beatlemania, Star Wars-mania, multiprefixball-mania, and Dallas-mania.  From November 11 or 12, 1982 until at least a half-handful of years after the events of August 1991, I took it for granted that upon touching down in not only Moscow or Leningrad, but even in some provincial burg such as Tblisi, Kharkov, or Novosibirsk, on any early afternoon of the week, one would be hard-pressed without pulling a number of extremely hefty and stubborn strings to obtain even standing-room admission to that evening’s performance by the local symphony orchestra, corps de ballet, opera company, or senior string quartet.  Since the late-middle-1990s at the latest, I have ceased to take for granted any such thing about the Moscow, Leningrad, Tblisi, Kharkov, Novosibirsk, etc., of either the present, November 11 or 12, 1982, or any intervening chronological points, and, indeed, I have come to assume that on the whole the Soviets-cum-post Soviets have been at least as apathetic or antipathetic to so (aftMPR)-called high culture, and at least as deplorably enthralled to (entirely rightly called) mass culture as us Anglo-Saxons for quite a bit longer than 3.6 decades.  The supposition that Russia and the other now-former Soviet republics are or were more hospitable greenhouses (a.k.a. conservatories) for the cultivation of the fine arts has of course been supposed by other Anglo-Saxons than me or I; indeed, in many ways idée-reçue-istically speaking it is but the complement of the other pan-Anglospheric supposition (or assumption) that I have already stroked, the supposition-or-assumption that the Soviets (or Russians [and by now by all means exclusively the Russians]) are incapable of doing anything in a properly up-to-date way, and like that supposition-or-assumption, it will be subjected to condign extensive interrogation [apologies for any inadvertent evocation of the practices of the KGB and FSB] herein in dew coarse; for now, though I must continue with the outfilling of my ethos qua would-be Russian studies prof in fulfillment of my pledge to the retiring DGR, as follows: thanks to the Aufbiggung of Tchaikovsky in the Brezhnev obsequies, my interest in the Soviet Union expanded beyond the ambit of its political doings to encompass its so-called cultural life as well.  I was not satisfied with the pre-revolutionary-originating strains of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov; I also wished to get to know the music of Prokofiev and Shostakovich.  But because the so-called literature on these two composers—the LP and CD liner-notes, music-reference-work-entries, and critical monographs devoted to them—was (and indeed still is) heavily laden with accounts of their respective numerous tussles with Soviet officialdom, and in particular with the Stalinian phase thereof, in becoming acquainted with their music I also received an ample—albeit highly tendentious—education in the Soviet Union’s political history, a history venomously rich with the cruel machinations and generally no less cruel (if also often condign) fates of the likes of Kirov, Tukhachevsky, Beria, and Zhdanov.  And as a result of the coition of this two-stranded education there was born in my mind the favorite baby of a notion of the first-rate Soviet artist as an indomitably plucky and resourceful individualist determined to be boldly experimental and expressive and honest no matter how devastating the potential cost to his health, safety, or retirement plan.  Concurrently, from the broadcasts of Radio Moscow, which I listened to on my portable shortwave radio in a spirit and with a frequency (and at a number of frequencies) that both defy adverbial expression (both avidly and religiously would suggest that I was actively and regularly seeking out RM, whereas the truth was that it was almost impossible for any shortwave listener to avoid RM, as it had the strongest signal, longest schedule, and largest number of frequencies of any English-language shortwave station barring the BBC and manifestly not barring the Voice of America [which of course makes sense, as RM was trying to win us over and the VOA was trying to win them over]; on the other hand, both fitfully and casually would fail to do justice to the several-dozen minutes over which I am known by my present self to have lingered more than twice at a(n) RM-occupied meter-band subdivision) I was getting a decidedly mixed picture of the then-current Soviet regime’s attitude to Geist in the Matthew-Arnoldian sense.  On the one hand, although RM’s propagandistic mission never retreated into the fully ignorable background, and all its programming had a decidedly pro-Soviet slant, none of its broadcasts had anything of the smug, hectoring quality of Lord Haw-Haw or Hanoi Hannah.  As near as I can remember, there were two typical genres of Radio Moscow programs.  One was a kind of cultural-anthropology correspondence course of the air wherein the presenter would read aloud letters  from listeners inquiring after Vanya and Masha Stolichnaya (or their counterparts in one of the non-Russian Soviet republics)’s manner of attending to some politically neutral facet of everyday life and then deliver oral replies liberally inclusive of acknowledgments of his or her debt to RM’s fact-checking team (in other words, liberally partaking of the same disarming, implicitly officialdom-abjuring “Shucks, it’s just li’ol-old-me up here talking to you”-type ethos that has ever been the stock-in-trade of on-air personalities in the Anglosphere).  So, for instance, I recall some query about the preparation of tea being answered with the factoid that people in some Gosh-awfully hot corner of the Union counterintuitively preferred their tea extra-hot in the summer, as the heat induced sweating and thereby cooled them off.  The other typical RM program was a panel talk show wherein three or four pundits of at least ostensibly divergent political outlooks would at least go through the motions of debating some non-politically neutral topic—say state ownership of the means of production versus private enterprise, on which one of the panelists (probably invariably the perfect-American-accented and part-time New Yorker Vladimir Posner, whom I also seemed to see every other week fielding flak for the Kremlin on Phil Donahue’s daytime television talk show) would be broad-minded enough to point out that State-owned production did rather tend to restrict the consumer’s range of choices—only of course to be gently put in his place with the rebuttal that the Soviet State was working diligently and competently at diversifying its product lines.  So this was the nice, the cheery liberal, the free-thought-facilitating, glasnost-affecting side of Radio Moscow.  The station’s coverage of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster revealed a very different side; a dour, secretive, prevaricating, mistrustful side—in short, a traditional or old-school Soviet side.  It was more than figuratively chilling to hear RM’s almost robotically affectless female newsreader merely announcing that there had been an incident at the Chernobyl power plant and that details about this incident were not yet available when I had already learned from American media sources that the reactor was in full meltdown and hemorrhaging torrents of lethal radiation into the atmosphere.  Meanwhile (we’re talking here about a period almost exactly coextensive with the calendar years 1987 through 1991), I was acquiring a not-unextensive if highly selective (and translator-filtered) acquaintance with both the pre-and post-revolutionary Russian-language literary canons—an acquaintance comprising, on the pre-revolutionary side all the major Dostoyevsky novels save The Idiot (which after several attempts I managed to read through to the end only in 2008–having at last been able to stomach its Christology [q.v. below {Lord willing}]), several of D.’s shorter works, including notably Notes from Underground (from which I derived facets of my authorial persona that survive intact to this day and in the present essay), the first part of Gogol’s Dead Souls and most of G.’s famous tales (though not G.’s famous play The Inspector General, which I was inspired to read only in about 2010 after watching the wildly unfaithful but palpably superior Danny Kaye cinematic adaptation), a smattering of Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Turgeneev novellas, and a fairly heaping helping of Chekhov short stories (though none of Ch.’s plays); and on the post-revolutionary side Ilf and Petrov’s Golden Ass, Zoshchenko’s Before Sunrise (of which the slightly inferior Richard Linklater movie of the same name would appear not to be even a wildly unfaithful adaptation) together with some of Z.’s ultra-brief humorous tales, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, and Yuri Olesha’s Envy.  Notable lacunae in this syllabus include (doubtless not exhaustively), all the works of Russia’s second-greatest Romantic, Lermontov (whose A Hero for our Time I eventually got around to in about 2002 and now revere), Goncharov’s Oblomov (of which I still know only as much as whatever portion of the original made it into the BBC’s Toby Jones-starring radio adaptation), all Russian poetry on either side of the boundary apart from poems set by composers (e.g., the handful each of Blok and Tsvetaeva poems in Shostakovich’s cycles), the two big (sic on big for great) Tolstoy novels, the one big (sic ditto) Turgeneev novel, and everything written in Russian after about 1950.  By my seventeenth year, towards the end of 1988, I had become enthusiastic enough about Russian literature—that is to say, literature written po-russkii regardless of the geographical provenance or native tongue of its author—to study the Russian language, as I did informally on my own for a year-and-a-half (or at any rate over a period of a year and a half, for I can’t imagine I devoted more than an average of ten minutes a week to it) and then formally for three semesters in college.  By the end of that third semester I felt as though I had had my fill of Russian.  This was mainly on account of the intrinsic qualities of the language, and in particular on account of the distinction between perfective and imperfective verb forms, a grammatical feature that Edmund Wilson perceptively pinpointed as the chief stumbling block for English-speaking would-be Russophones.  Russian’s multiplicity of inflections, its dozens of noun and verb endings, in having near-exact parallels in Latin, presented me with few problems, but the whole business of perpetually having to deal with two stems for a single verb both perplexed and annoyed me to extra-figurative distraction.  But if I am to be honest with myself (and with the retiring DGR), I must concede that my throwing in of the J-Cloth on my study of Russian was also materially actuated by if not an absolute waning of interest in Russian literature, then at least a relative waning thereof occasioned by my growing fascination by or with other literatures originating in other languages—notably French, German, and my native English.  It was probably not then the case that I had actually become bored with Russian literature eo ipso, but rather (and yet conceivably no less damningly to Russian literature’s discredit) that these other literatures were still patently disclosing new vistas to me while Russian literature seemed to be failing to do this; or, to put it another and more brutal way, that I was getting the sense that I had essentially gotten the gist of Russian literature, that whatever as-yet-unread Russian novel, poem, short story, autc. I might subsequently read would not teach me anything I had not already learned from other Russian novels autc.  And if I am to be totally honest with myself and the retiring DGR, I must further concede that the course of Soviet and former-Soviet history post-August 1991 (August 1991 marked the beginning of my third and final semester of official Russian study, by the way) also contributed materially (if secondarily) to the radical downscaling of my scholastic Russophilia; I must concede, in other words, that at some moment during my selection of classes for the spring semester of 1992, I more than likely reflected something along the lines of “Well, if the next chapter in the grand [grand as in great and not merely big (or, indeed, merely bolshoi)] roman of history isn’t any longer going to hinge on this standoff between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, I had better get out of this scholastic Russophilian racket like [some amusingly Russocentric cod-variation on “a rat off a sinking ship,” a cod-variation probably ineluctably centering even more specifically on the Potemkin and the Soviet Union’s answer to Mickey Mouse {for I cannot but assume there was such an answer, knowing as I do that there were Soviet answers to the likes of James Bond}].”  And yet yet again (or yet again again), I shan’t be so perversely self-abasing vis-à-vis the present meta-ethical context as to pretend that every last drop of my interest in things Russian and peri-Russian simply evaporated in January of 1992.  Indeed, in all frankness and candor, I can assert that this interest simply reverted to its 1982 levels, which is to say that while I stopped reading Russian books and trying to learn the Russian language, I kept listening to Russian music and following the news from Russia.  And in about 1999, I began to cultivate a fandom in (or of) Russian-language cinema (my almost total ignorance of which thitherto had been owing not to any lack of curiosity on my part but merely to the unavailability of rentable video versions of the movies [which my neighborhood video shop started carrying only in the expiring moments of the millennium {It is something of a puzzle of a fact—one that I shall subsequently have occasion to take a crack at solving—that Russian-language cinema’s commercial profile in the Anglosphere has been steadily rising all the while that Russia’s political stocks herein have been plummeting.}])  Russian cinema is here by no means to be read as simple shorthand for Soviet-period so-called art cinema, for while I did indeed school myself first and ultimately most thoroughly on the films of Andrei Tarkovsky and subsequently sought out Soviet movies of comparable falutine altitude to his—e.g., Grigori Kozintsev’s King Lear and Hamlet and Larisa Shepitko’s Wings and The Ascent—I also watched a fair number of Hollywood-style Soviet dramas (e.g., The Cranes Are Flying and Letter Never Sent) and even broad crowd-pleasing comedies such as The Irony of Fate, Ivan the Terrible (a.k.a. Back to the Future [groan]), and Kidnapping Caucasian Style, as well as some commercially successful if more than vaguely arty features from the post-Soviet period—most notably Andrey Zvyagintsev’s The Return, Elena, and Leviathan.

It is under the aegis or auspices of the immediately above-delineated ethos that I presume to lecture the reader: I presume to lecture him or her, in short, in my capacity as a moderate Russophile-cum-Sovietophile-cum former-Soviet-realm-ophile of thirty-six years’ standing who knows a more-than-modest if hardly formidable amount about Russia and the other former Soviet republics although he has never been to Russia or any of those other countries, and, indeed, has met very few Russians and former-Soviet republicans—so few, indeed, that it would be extremely impertinent in him (a.k.a. me) even to extrapolate the most tentative of generalizations about the Russian or Former-Soviet-Republic-X-an national character from my appraisals of their individual characters; nay, even to attempt to bring home to the reader the precise flavor and piquancy-point of the impertinence by tendering an Anglospheric analogy along the lines of “It would be like generalizing about Brits or Americans based on the habitual comportment of Famous or Notorious Brits or Americans X, Y, and Z.”  Doubtlessly this lack of firsthand geographical and social experience has occasioned—or, rather, in conformity with the metaphorical equation of knowledge with vision, left in place—certain epistemologically significant blind spots. For instance, back in the Soviet epoch I heard (and only heard) that in Russia (or possibly even in every Soviet republic) the circus was a much more important cultural phenomenon-cum-institution than it ever had been in any so-called Western country; that, indeed, the average Russian (or possibly even average Soviet) devoted at least as large a proportion of his or her leisure hours to circus-attendance as to sporting-event attendance and movie-viewing.  Now, as a ca. fifteen-year-old American who thitherto had been utterly oblivious of the existence of Soviet circuses but had had many a pair of Toughskins whisked off his lower extremities by his unalloyed boredom by various American circuses, I could not help imagining the average Soviet circus as an act-by-act clone of the average American circus (only with ringmasters, clowns, lions, etc. that boasted, laughed, roared, etc. in Russian [or Georgian, Armenian, autc.] rather than English) nor, consequently, being utterly bemused by the average Russian or Soviet citizen’s reputed enthrallment thereby; and as a forty-six-year-old American who has still not spectated on a single Russian, Soviet, or former-Soviet circus (nor been capable of being a**ed to see if any footage of such a circus is available on Y**-T***) I continue to imagine the average Russian autc. circus as a mutatis-mutandis act-by-act clone of a Toughskins offwhiskingly boring American circus.  And in consequence of my total ignorance of the Soviet or Russian circus I have doubtless failed to understand some salient facet of the Soviet or Russian character and have most certainly by default ascribed a doubtless unjustified nadirishness of naffness to the leisure-time proclivities of Vanya and Masha Stolichnaya aut al.  Doubtless there was and possibly still is something about the Soviet or Russian circus that set and possibly still sets it head, shoulders, and nineteen-foot stilts above the American circus and indeed elevated or even still elevates it to the level of sublimity equal to that of the works of Tarkovsky, Tchaikovsky, and Dostoyevsky—but in consequence of my firsthand geographical ignorance of Russia and other former Soviet territories I have yet to learn what that something is.  And even if by now I had been capable of being a**ed to see if any footage of a Russian or Soviet circus was or is on Y**-T*** and had discovered there a complete video archive of circus performances in Russia and other former Soviet territories from the dawn of cinema to the present and had spectated on every single minute of that archive, I am sure some wag of a traveler of former-Soviet climes would call me out for or on my obliviousness of some facet of Russian or Soviet circus-spectatorship accessible only to those with buttocks planted in the bleachers—e.g., as follows: “How can you claim to begin to say the simplest goshdamn thing about the Russians or other former Soviets when you know nothing about the perennially preferred snack or popcorn-analogue of Russian and other former Soviet-republic-an circus goers—viz. deep-fried Kabardian mountain goat mountain oysters drenched in Kabul sauce?”  (Not that I know anything about Kabardia except that it’s some part of the Caucasus mentioned in A Hero of Our Time, or about Kabul sauce except, thanks to Yevgeny Yetvstushenko’s poem “In the Store” [which I in turn know only because it served as the text to a movement of Shostakovich’s Thirteenth Symphony], that you could buy it in Soviet government stores in 1962.  [Naturally the linguistic fortunes of the term Kabul sauce since the 1980 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan spring{s} to mind in its own right as a subject on which I might be more enlightened if I had ever been to Russia autc.]) And that well-traveled out-calling wag would doubtless be well within his rights to lord it over me like some pre-1861 Russian landowner, and I would doubtless be obliged to take his lordliness on the chin like the lowliest of pre-1861 muzhiks.  All the same, travel is surely not some fixed, top-ranking epistemological t***p card or epistemological vacuum cleaner that irrefragably and indefeasibly hoovers up each and every particle of demurral gleaned from other registers of experience, and on two or more occasions the present untraveled semigluteal Russophile has enjoyed the by no means dubious pleasure of putting a well-traveled steatopygiac Russophile in his or her place.  I recall, for example, that in 2009 I met a person with a professional political-policy-orientated interest in Russia (doubtless he would have had to kill me, as they say, had he disclosed the precise nature of this interest) who reported that he had lately spent an extensive and intensively professionally orientated interval in the city of Astrakhan.  “Ah, Astrakhan,” I reflexively shrieked in uncontainable delight at simply being in the presence of a person who had been in the place after which such iconic articles had been named (I apologize for the clunkiness of this construction, but regrettably the term eponym applies only to people and namesake to paired named entities in the Kripkean sense—e.g., Odessa, Ukraine [formerly though not originally Odessa, Russia and Odessa, U.S.S.R] and its namesakes Odessa, Texas and Odessa, Florida), “as in the hats?”  Alas, the dude or gentleman had no idea of what I was referring or alluding to.  I might as well have been in the presence of a recent sojourner in Buffalo, New York who had never heard of Buffalo wings, or a recent sojourner in Pisa, Italy who had never heard of pizza, or, indeed, a recent sojourner in Delhi, India who had never heard of delicatessens.  After all, the Astrakhan hat was and is at least as intimately conjoined to or with Russia as the bowler hat to or with the City of London and the ten-gallon Stetson cowboy hat to or with the State of Texas, for what scene of outdoor Russian winter life, what view of Red Square or Nevsky Prospect at Christmastime [or, in the officially heathenish Soviet days, Newyearstime], would be complete—at least in cis-Ural eyes—were not every last masculine head therein surmounted by one of those bulky, towering black-fleeced-out superfezzes?  Why, one would as soon countenance a bare a**e or b*s*m as an Astrakhan-hatless male pate in such a tableau.  And yet this dude or gentleman who derived not only his daily bread but also his weekly circus-cum-sack of deep-fried Kabul sauce-drenched Kabardian mountain goat mountain oysters (qua quasi-synecdoche for disposable income, natch), from his supposed—and in most registers doubtless actual—expertise on Russia, had never heard of the Astrakhan hat.  Presumably throughout his sojourn in Astrakhan he had been so thoroughly absorbed in the nitty-gritty of public policy (committee meetings; nodding, chin-stroking spectations of or on maps, graphs, diagrams; etc.) that he had not had a moment to pop by the local local history museum, which doubtless centered and still centers on an extremely expensive (by local history-museal standards) and multi-sensorily arresting and therefore inescapable exhibit on the hat to which the town owes its fifteen million minutes of low-key, soft-white 60-watt bulb, fame (but fame rather than obscurity nonetheless).  So, to reiterate and acuminate the point I made before the adduction of this example: while caeteris paribus the well-traveled person is more enlightened than the untraveled person, caeteris inparibus—i.e., specifically in the well-traveled person’s disfavor and generally because the well-traveled person has been less curious about or attentive to the traveled-to place—the well-traveled person’s epistemological edge over the untraveled person may be slight, nonexistent, or even negative.  Such being the case, the reader should not by default set a lesser value on my assertions than on those of any official expert on Russia etc., and by the same token I should (and indeed will) stand ready to be corrected by any officially accredited expert on Russia etc. whose curiosity and attentiveness thereunto equal or exceed my own.  And I confess to standing especially vigilantly ready to be corrected by officially accredited experts on the non-Russian parts of the etc. as these parts have developed (or stagnated or regressed) over the past 15 years or so, for the following reason: throughout this roughly 15-year-period the respective internal political situations of the former Soviet republics other than Russia have been by default quite marginal contributors to the overall geopolitical situation, such that by whatever (if any) time the BBC, CBS, CNN, NPR, et al. aut c. find occasion to report on one of these nation-state-territories, the various forces, factions, personages, and interests materially germane to the historical moment have already been in play (or at war, loggerheads, autc.) for some time (that some time being a unit that is axiomatically always increasing in length), such that the Russophile-cum-Sovietophile-cum former-Soviet-realm-ophile who relies, as the present one does, on the BBC et al. aut c. for his intelligence of the former-Soviet realm is apt to be unaware, at least for the short term (i.e., until such time, if ever, when the former-Soviet republic in question has been close enough to geopolitical center -stage long enough to elicit so-called in-depth documentaries, panel-discussions, etc. from the BBC et al. aut c.), of the precise anatomical position of either the principal political bone that is being picked within any given former-Soviet republic or the principal political bone that the dominant and significant would-be dominant political agents and would-be agents wish to pick (or share [if sharing a bone indeed be the cooperative complement of picking one]) with Russia.  For example [CENSORED DGR INTERVENTION IN OBJECTION TO MY UNDENIABLY CLOYING ADDICTION TO ‘FOR EXAMPLE’ + PERSONAL ANECDOTE IN THE PRESENT ESSAY], it was only in September of 2016, when Islam Karimov, the president of Uzbekistan since 1989 (hence, since Soviet times) died and consequently received a few-dozen minutes of news coverage on BBC Radio 4, that I was compelled even slightly to disentangle Uzbekistan as a political entity from the neighboring stans.  The last I had heard of Uzebkistan before this necrological episode (barring the hilarious [albeit—if the DVD commentary is to be believed—completely uninformed, let alone fact-checked] SCTV mock-Soviet television public service announcement warning the presumptively upright non-Uzbekistani Soviet citizens against the subterfuges of the wily though shiftless Uzbeks, which I had first seen in ’07 or thenabouts) had been way back in the autumn of ’01, when, during the ouster of the Taliban from the pilot’s or helmsman’s seat of the ship of state of Afghanistan, U-stan had been repeatedly publicly described by White House and State Department spokespeople as a key ally in the war on terror(ism).  In the meantime I had interpellated U-stan by default as a “typical corruption-ridden ex-Soviet State-cum-territory other than Russia” in which a nationalist or Islamist-orientated party, a retro-Soviet-orientated party, and a so-called progressive so-called free-market orientated party were recurrently triangling off against one another in paper-rock-scissors matches that recurrently brought one of the three into nominal ascendancy for a year, or, at most, two years in succession out of a decade of incessant actual political anarchy and economic torpor.  The Karimov death-coverage revealed to me that to the—or, at any rate, a—very surprising contrary, since the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. Uzbekistan had been functioning very much like an old-school Soviet satellite state on penuriously rationed steroids, with Karimov constituting a Ceaușescu-like omnipotent and unbudgeable chief executive presiding over a government-monopolized economy centered on the extraction and exportation of indigenous natural resources—notably gold and natural gas.  Doubtless two or more among the other former Soviet republics about which I have lately happened to hear next to nothing—Azerbaijan, Moravia, Armenia, etc.—evince comparably wide and striking divergences from my “typical corruption-ridden ex-Soviet State-cum-territory other than Russia.”  And doubtless intelligence of the internal political situation of at least one of these two or more republics would occasion some far from trivial modifications of my overall appraisal of the former-Soviet sub-geopolitical landscape, as my recent briefest of briefings on Uzbekistan has in fact done.  Before this briefing I had tended to assume that a given former non-Russian Soviet republic’s degree of Russophilia varied in direct proportion to the percentage of its population comprised by so-called ethnic Russians (the admittedly cumbrous precise designation for such types is people who like to think of themselves as Russians), and Uzbekistan has shown me that such an assumption is by no means well-founded, that, indeed, in a political-ethical rapprochement partly reminiscent of the mutual attraction of the Axis powers in World War II (“partly” because I am as yet unaware of any upsurge of Russophilia among the Uzbekistani populace [not that I am not essentially unwarrantedly taking it for granted that a preponderance of the German, Italian, and Japanese populaces were enthusiastic about the Axis]) a former non-Russian Soviet republic statistically devoid of so-called ethnic Russians is quite capable of becoming bosom buddies with Russia merely in virtue of pursuing (or being prey to) a political-cum-economic program that is ever-so-broadly Russia-esque.  And this Uzbekistan-catalyzed refinement of my default conception of non-Russian former Soviet republics has not failed of having knock-on effects on my appraisal of present-day Russia herself or itself; for now that I know that he has had at least one genuine dependable ally-cum-imitator (although, in the light of the chronology, role model might be the more appropriate word for Mr. Karimov) in the president of Uzbekistan, Mr. Putin’s uniformly cocksurely domineering comportment towards the remaining non-Russian former-Soviet republics seems to me slightly more rational, slightly less megalomaniacal, slightly less pie-in-the-skyish than it did as recently as two years ago.  Perhaps, I am now inclined to reflect, Mr. Putin is not entirely foolishly hoping that even the most prevailingly Russophobic among these countries will be coaxable back into the Old Kremlin Corral after their respective feckless teenager-like dreams of hosting “the Silicon Valley of the Armpit of Nowhere” and transforming every last porcifutuoaceous peasant within their borders into a gig-entrepreneur pulling in eighty-thou (euros, dollars, or pounds—take your pick [after all, the value-differences among the three currencies are negligible as of this writing]) a week by taking the pooches of well-heeled Parisians, Londoners, and New Yorkers for walkies in nonets by remote-control robotic video-link, have finally spent themselves, leaving them finally to realize (so at least the P.W.’s conjectural V.P.) that they would be best served by transforming themselves into oversized three or four- aisle company stores on the current (and well-established) Russian floorplan.  So in short: inasmuch as such bits of non-Russian former Soviet republic-iana have proved enlightening if chastening so far, I welcome further instances thereof from whatever enlightened quarter or party can supply them, even knowing as I do that my privity to them may compel me to revise or even retract some of the sentiments I will have aired by the conclusion of this essay.  At the same time, knowing as I do that my fuller knowledge of the political-cum-economic habitus of Uzbekistan has not compelled me to revise by so much as a jotlet, let alone to retract, a single one of the assertions that constituted the main so-called talking points of the then-prospective and now present essay (to which I really must start sp*d*-a-sp*d*-calling-ishly referring consistently as a lecture) even some months before I learnt of Mr. Karimov’s death, I see no sub-casuistically compelling reason for not forthwith itemizing these assertions and then expounding on them as blithely, cavalierly, and indeed insouciantly, as though it were still ca. March 2016 both chez moi and chez the whole gosh-damn kit-and-kaboodle of a Russian-cum-non Russian former Soviet Republican state of affairs, as follows:

1) Russia, as it subsists within its present borders, is indisputably a great power, and indeed the world’s third-greatest power after the United States and China, although Japan (another unjustly now démodé-cum-formerly catwalk-dominating nation-state) and India certainly have plausible grounds for contesting the bronze with it.  Admittedly this title of Great Power No. 3 (of, say, five to seven) is a less illustrious—or, perhaps, rather, less pompous or blingy—one than that of Superpower No.2 (of only two) that the U.S.S.R. was universally conceded even during the most torpid micro-stretches of the Brezhnev micro-epoch and the unremittingly embarrassing two-and-a-half years of the Andropov-cum-Chernenko micro-micro epoch.  But the comparative dinginess of the title is owing far more lavishly and exigently to the indisputable post-1989 ascent of China to the position of Great Power No. 2 than either to whatever degree of diminution of its absolute stature Russia has suffered since the dissolution of the Soviet Union or to whatever absolute augmentation of its own absolute stature the U.S. has enjoyed since that selfsame historical milestone.  And for all its dinginess, the title’s still-stratospheric position in the geopolitical league table (or Billboard Chart [q.v.]) means that for the so-called immediately foreseeable future the third question any entity of worldwide presence-cum-influence—be it a nation-state government, a multinational corporation, or a superquango—ought to ask itself before taking any action of potentially global reverberativeness will remain “How will this play in Moscow, and, indeed [in the light of certain centrifugal post-1991 tendencies within Russia itself], in such Peoria-esque Russian burgs as Novgorod and Novosibirsk?”  2) The historically-dubious-beyond-belief and ever-volatile congeries of countries that now styles itself the West with a curious mixture of smugness and desperation has precious little ethical or prudential grounds for looking down its lorgnette at Russia.  This so-called West’s arrogated supposed edge over the Russkies derives solely, in the ethical register, from its recent liberalization of legal codes governing practices of super-marginal and therefore negligible ethical import, and in the prudential register, from its peremptory fetishization of a bastardized version of a system of political economy that has always been legitimately contestable and that by now has proved downright untenable.  3) The U. S. S. R. may have had its faults, but its sublation and subsumption of an only barely figuratively myriad national, ethnic, peri-national, and peri-ethnic-identification tags in and under the single portable identification tag of Soviet Citizen was a very good thing, a VGT that mutatis mutandis really ought to be revived.  4) With the exception of the three Baltic nation-states, the non-Russian former Soviet republics now at various sizes and temperatures of loggerheads with Russia are axiomatically not merely striving to hold on to some pre-Soviet status quo ante reestablished in 1991, because the territories coterminous with them were already a part of the Russian empire before it turned Soviet.  Their respective beeves with Russia therefore should be understood preeminently as Russophobic beeves—as beeves with Russia qua Russia—rather than as beeves actuated principally by the fear of once again losing whatever liberties they were deprived of as a consequence of the institution of the Soviet regime.  5) The principal principle upon which the so-called West founds its contestation of Russia’s interference with the nation-states in its propinquity is identical to the principal principle upon which Russia founds that interference.  This is the principle of national self-determination.  And inasmuch as this principle is at bottom a barrel of bl**dy bullocks’ b**l*cks, the cry of any enlightened soul vis-à-vis the friction between Russia and these other countries must at bottom be A plague o’ both your houses (or dachas or whatever the local s*dding equivalent is)!—although at least to the extent that vituperation by the likes of the BBC, CNN, CBS, NPR, etc. constitutes the plague, Russia has had enough of it to last a good, say, five years, and the non-Russian nation-states are long overdue for a dose of it.  6) Any and all present-day Anglospheric pathos about the discrepancy between “Putin’s Russia,” and some other Russia, whether that Russia is understood as the Russia of an earlier epoch (e.g., Russia in the time of Nicholas II or Russia in the time of Lenin) or as a more “liberal,” “intellectual” stratum of present-day Russian society than the one frequented by Putin and his myrmidons (i.e., essentially, the one frequented by the likes of Gary Kasparov and Pussy Riot), is blinkered to the point of clinical blindness.  To be sure, today’s Russia is a trashy, degenerate travesty of the Russias of 50, 100, and 150 years ago, but today’s world as a whole and every single country in it are trashy, degenerate travesties of their former selves.  Accordingly the morally, intellectually, aesthetically etc. (and it is a long, long adverbial cetera) dubious elements of today’s Russia are but an amplification of such elements in the Russia of old, and they are and always have been indissociable from those elements of the Russian Volksgeist that Anglo-Saxons most and rightly admire; or, to put it in ad-homineminal terms, the likes of Pussy Riot and Gary Kasparov, just like the likes of Tchaikovsky, Tarkovsky, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky, are all possessed of character traits that a classic Anglo-Saxon liberal would balk at adopting.  Thus the quasi-Solomonian question that confronts every would-be or half-hearted classic Anglo-Saxon liberal of a Russophile is whether the Russian baby is a nice enough one to forbear throwing away despite the noisomeness of its bathwater, for at least in the historical medium-term any separation of the one from the other is a virtual impossibility.  7) Even the most full-hearted non-would be (because long, long-since is) Russophobe who is convinced that Russia is all bathwater and no baby (the very biological meta-incomprehensibility of this metaphor is suggestive of certain conceptual defects chez the present-day Russophobic outlook that I hope to elucidate) cannot in any good faith deny that present-day Russia is in every salient respect closer to us—at whatever level of specificity below the entire human race one chooses set the us-from-them dividing mambo-stick—than to China.  Accordingly, unless he cherishes the Pollyanna-in-the-sky fantasy that through the magic of commerce China will transform itself into a kind of archipelago of American-style Chinatowns—a fantasy that I hope to put paid to via my elaboration of Item No. 2 in this list—he or she needs must welcome, nay, yearn for closer ties between Russia and Anglo-Saxia, and at minimum in the very short term nurture the hope that Russia will not become any more buddy-buddy (or droog-tongzhi) with China than it already is.

Now on to the expounding, starting with No. 1, Russia is Great Power No. 3 in the present world.  This is very probably something of a problematic assertion in the eyes, ears, etc. of present-day received opinion, which tends to view greatness in a geopolitical sense as a direct function of the political-economic concept of gross domestic product (GDP), and Russia is as of this writing ranked sixth rather than third in all the competing U.S. News and World Report-style rankings (cf. and contrast “Billboard chart” and “league table” [q.q.v.]) of the respective GDPs of the world’s countries.  But GDP is not the only plausible index of geopolitical greatness, and, indeed, until fairly recently—specifically, since 1934, when the phrase gross domestic product was coined—it could not have served as any kind of index of geopolitical greatness.  To be fair to the fetishists of GDP, though, geopolitics is itself a word of almost comparably recent coinage, and even the notion of a power as “a state or nation from the point of view of its international authority or influence” may not be much more than 116 years old.  (With gallingly unhelpful vagueness, my Oxford Universal Dictionary, a 1950s abridgment of the original OED, gives the just-quoted definition as a “late” sub-sense of a usage first recorded in 1726 and in illustration of this sub-sense cites a source from 1901.)  Accordingly, unless one is willing to concede that great-powerdom is something of no deeper historical profundity than, say, ragtime or the bicycle (and who, apart from the most unregenerate ephemeron-gourmandizing churl would be willing to countenance, let alone champion, such a scandalously banausic notion) one must dispense with philology and conceive of powerdom and greatness in the simplest and grossest notional terms—to conceive of a power or potential power as any territory or collection of territories answering to a single name and governmental body and greatness as an abstract noun subsuming all the sorts of accoutrements of territorial dominion that people have tended to regard as great across the ages.  Let us take the sub-geopolitical situation of Europe and its North American annex at the time of the Seven Years War (1756-1763) as a case in point in illustration of the compellingness of such a realistic (in the strictly philosophical sense), non-philological treatment of great-powerdom.  At this time France was universally regarded as the greatest European power, and Great Britain as running behind France at a fairly distant second (with Prussia panting close on its rear hooves).  The principal material grounds of this pride of place seem to have been demographic and geographical: with at least 25 million souls France was a much more populous country than Great Britain, which at most contained nine million; and France’s North American colonial dominions were much more extensive, comprising all of present-day Quebec and most of the present-day American Midwest, as against the comparatively minuscule present-day I-95 corridor-minus-Florida then comprised by Britain’s colonial holdings in the continent.  To be sure, the French colonies were much more thinly populated than the British ones (such that, in contrast to the latter, they never acquired a fraction of the demography-fueled side requisite to declaring independence from the mother country), but their possession was seemingly solidly underwritten by the protection of the French army, famous for more than a century as the largest and best-trained in Europe, in abashing contrast to its puny, ad-hoc, perpetually press gang-dependent British counterpart.  All this while, it was no less universally acknowledged that Britain was an altogether more prosperous and comfortable country than France—that its poor were much better fed, clothed, housed, and educated; its class of persons of the middle station much more numerous; its commodities of everyday use both much more copious in number and variety and much more easily acquirable; its distribution of both commodities of everyday use (e.g., coal, butter, candles, milk, and sugar) and luxuries (e.g., tea, lace, china services, harpsichords, and whalebone corsets) much more extensive.  In short-cum-fatuously anachronistic terms, everybody was willing to grant that Britain had a substantially larger GDP than France.  Nobody was blind to France’s economic shortcomings, and yet everybody regarded France as a greater power than Britain, because they regarded military strength, breadth of territorial occupation, and demographic abundance as superior to economic magnitude qua indices of greatness.  It was only when, in the very early nineteenth century, Britain achieved parity with or superiority to France in these other areas, that it began to be regarded as a greater power than France (albeit while furnishing the cult of GDP with its creation myth by being the first intercontinentally great power {in favorable contrast to the Mediterranean-bound Venice of the immediate post-Middle Ages} to have trafficked its way into greatness). 

That I have not adduced the preceding scenario as a full-fledged geopolitical allegory with mid-eighteenth-century France standing in for present-day Russia and mid-eighteenth-century Britain standing in for…well, virtually every present-day country of more than negligible geopolitical sway except Russia (and very much including Britain) should be evident (at least to those who have not written me off as a complete-ignoramus-cum idiot) from one glaring discrepancy between France back then and Russia today: Russia is manifestly not more populous than any of its geopolitical rivals save Japan and is less than half as populous as the United States and a tenth as populous as China and India.  But inasmuch as I am merely trying to make a case for regarding Russia as the present globe’s third great power this discrepancy should not be regarded as fatal to my argument, for in other registers present-day Russia can more than hold its own in a comparison with France of 250 years ago.  Of these I shall mention the military register first, partly because I find it the most boring and it is nice to get the most boring things out of the way early on, but also because despite its boringness it is not only arguably but certainly the one of greatest material weight—the one about which we should…how do you say?...give the largest s**t.  I am not even going to bother looking up statistics on the relative personnel volumes of the Russian, American (or, for those who would sacrifice both euphony and grammatical parity to Hispanophilia, U.S.), Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Brazilian, Indonesian, etc. armies; or even on the number of aircraft carriers, fighter-jets, battleships, bombers, frigates, tugboats, etc. in the respective combined fleets of these countries; for at bottom (and with sincere apologies to the million or so people who have been injured or killed by them in the past decade alone) these endowments are all so many wooden soldiers and pop-guns  when considered alongside the 7,300 warheads in Russia’s nuclear arsenal, which is evidently if not substantially larger than the United States’ 6,970, and positively lap-dogs the 260 in China’s (along with the 140 or so each in India’s and Pakistan’s).  Of course I know that in the eyes and minds of all the present-day supposed experts on geopolitics a nuclear arsenal is merely the whitest and most massive white elephant a nation-state can ever acquire and that in real military terms a purely nuclear-armed State would be virtually interchangeable with a ten-year-old child armed with, well, wooden soldiers and pop-guns.  “The deucedly ironic thing about a nuclear arsenal,” these grizzled pundits (who by no means are to be mistaken for DGRs) aver while puffing away with insufferable smugness at hookah tubes filled with their own anal flatulence (to be fair, they really have nothing else to puff away at now that pipe-smoking is banned in television studios), “is that it’s too potent to use, inasmuch as any commander-in-chief or head of state of any State who did presume to launch a nuclear attack on a foe would be met with a retaliation massive enough, at minimum, to prevent his or her continuing hostilities and quite possibly to eventuate in the utter annihilation of his or her own country’s population and infrastructure.  Ergo, a nuclear attack is effectively an act of military-strategic suicide.”  To which averral I am, in the first, most boring but again—at least in certain senses—most materially weighty place inclined to retort, “If these gosh-d**ged nuclear weapons are so paperweightesque in their military utility, why are so many countries who haven’t got any of them so eager, so gung-ho, to acquire them, and even more strikingly, so eager-cum-gung ho to acquire the power to manufacture them ad libitum, and why are we Anglo-Saxons so eager to prevent these countries from acquiring both the weapons and the power?”  But as this retort has no bearing whatsoever on Russia, I really ought swiftly to move on to my second retort, which has as much bearing on Russia as on any other country, and hence a great deal of bearing indeed, viz.: since when has the effective suicidal nature of any action categorically precluded its execution on any conceivably adduceable grounds?  If and only if suicide were as statistically rare an occurrence as, say, that genetic disease that causes children to turn into wizened biological centenarians by the age of ten, why, then and only then would I concede the reasonableness of the fart-hookah-puffing pundits’ complacency (albeit not their smugness) vis-à-vis nuclear arsenals; then and only then would I spirit away my dread of a nuclear apocalypse as speedily as I routinely do my dread of the annihilation of humankind by the earth’s collision with an asteroid.  “Sure, it could happen,” I would in that case apostrophize myself while making my toilet of a weekday morning: “After all, virtually anything’s possible.  But what are the chances of its happening in my lifetime?  A zillion-trillion to one.  Why, the odds of my dying of a fall in the yikes!  (I really should have picked up that bar of so-o-o-a-p […]).”  But suicide is quite evidently not so rare an occurrence.  It would much surprise me if fewer than one out of a hundred deaths were caused by a deliberate act of suicide—in other words, as an immediate and dedicated consequence of the die-er’s conscious and diligent contrivance-cum-employment of an instrument of self-destruction (e.g., a noose, gunshot, or unventilated car-exhaust {or anal hookah} pipe).  And if one regards the ambit of suicide as being broad enough to include deaths occasioned by the performance of routine but potentially self-destroying acts in a wantonly reckless manner—one (or at any rate I) immediately thinks here of that veritable icon of rock-solid American stiff-upper-lip-dom Ed Asner’s shaving with an imperfectly mounted non-disposable safety razor  [no, bless his soul, he didn’t actually die, but he very well might have done]—why, the figure surely rises to at least one in ten.  One could, of course, make a watertight-cum-ironclad argument that virtually every death, or, let us say, 9,999.7 out of every ten thousand deaths, is a suicide provided one broadened the ambit to include every death conceivably traceable to an act the die-er deliberately engaged in despite his or her knowledge that it was not a so-called healthy choice–say, the ten-minute utilization of a non-non smoking bar (back in the days when there still were non-non smoking bars)’s sanitary facilities, or the one-off consumption of a cheeseburger with bacon or extra mayonnaise (or even of a baconless-cum-mayonnaiseless cheeseburger instead of a mere hamburger, or even of a hamburger instead of a mere lettuce-and-tomato sandwich, or even of a lettuce-and-tomato-sandwich instead of a mere dressing-less lettuce-and-tomato salad)—one could do that, but this one, a.k.a. I, shall and will not, lest I find myself in the heart of the camp of my arch-enemies, the vile Whigs (q.v. below, Lord willing).  In any case, I don’t think one needs to grant that suicide is a near-universal, or even common, occurrence to be bemused by the pooh-poohing away of its geopolitical manifestation as a virtual chimera.  Suppose the figure of suicide-caused deaths is only one in a thousand, or one in ten thousand; why, then, it is perforce far too high to be tolerated at a geopolitical resolution, for the eye-burstingly obvious reason that however statistically rare it is, it somehow manages to translate into a phenomenon with which we are all familiar–every one of us has heard of someone’s committing suicide in the past year, most of us (including the present writer) have been within two or three degrees of remove from personal acquaintance with a suicide, and quite a number of us have been at zero degree(s)—or one degree, if the suicide himself or himself contributes to the count—of such remove.  For each of us, suicide is an event-genre chez les autres that is slightly less probable than divorce or so-called gender reassignment and slightly more probable than sharing an airliner banquette with a so-called B-list celebrity—its occurrence chez un parmi ces autres elicits from each of us a physio-semiotic reaction more ardent than a shrug or yawn yet a du*n-sight less frenzied than a shriek or gasp.  “What did you just say? [pauses with coffee cup held within inches of lips] Jenkins in accounting offed himself with a so-called Magnum 44 revolver last night?  Well I nev…well, at least only very seldom. [takes generous sip from coffee cup].”  The preceding bit of stage patter pretty much, I fancy, captures the precise temperature, flavor, and texture of the average present-day Anglo-Saxon’s reaction to news of a suicide in his or her personal Umwelt.  And by all rights his or her reaction to hearing that Putin, the Russian branch manager, offed himself in a mushroom-cloud steam bath ought not eo ipso to be a microjoule more animated or heated.  For Mr. Putin is after all only human, as they say, and even in the improbable event that he (along with all his fellow-members of the multi-gigaton club) is ultimately as sane, prudent, and even-tempered as the average accountant, we axiomatically cannot take it for granted that he will never—or even only very seldom—commit nuclear suicide, inasmuch as we know from our own quotidian experience that many a person as sane, prudent, and even-tempered as the average accountant has committed suicide by the most potent and spectacular means at his or her practicable disposal.  This is why any affective-cum-somatic disposition towards a prospective nuclear apocalypse more than a few angst-degrees short of outright panic is outright wanton ostrichism and indeed as delusive as the wildest persecution-fantasy sufferable by the most paranoiac of nuclear-armed commanders in chief-cum-heads of state.  It is well enough to say, “We must keep our fingers crossed and hope that cooler State-heads prevail in this matter”; indeed, I myself am enough of a Whig-cum-Pollyanna to hope and indeed nearly presume that cooler State-heads will prevail in this matter, inasmuch as I do not believe a natural or genuine or full-fledged hot-head (as against an affectedly hot-headed person such as Mr. Putin or Mr. Trump [after all, we mustn’t conflate hot-headedness and fatuity]) is likely to assume control of a nuclear arsenal of world-annihilating strength.  But in this matter confidence in the coolness of individual commanders in chief-cum-heads of nuclear armed States cannot be suffered to expand and transmogrify into confidence in the safety of those of us (i.e. all of us) within vaporizing distance of a multi-gigaton nuclear arsenal, inasmuch as quotidian experience has proved to us that the coolest of heads are not arithmetically, let alone geometrically, less prone to self-destruction than the hottest of them.  And if to this assertion it be objected by a grizzled, fart-hookah-puffing pundit that a nuclear arsenal, in staggeringly belittling contrast to a noose, gun, autc., cannot be operated by a single human individual, that while it is indeed easy to imagine even one of our most cool-headed commanders in chief-cum-heads of a nuclear-armed State momentarily getting hot-headed enough (or falling into a blue and slap-bass-heavy enough blue funk) to press the biggest and most imposingly red of all buttons, that button is after all effectively but a room-service bell-pull linked to, oh, at most, a gross of silo-wardens and sub-captains, each and every last one of whom can surely be counted on not to have flown or fallen into a suicidal passion or blue funk on the same day as his or her superboss and hence be further counted on to do the right thing with all the altruistic valiance of Cornwall’s servant shielding Gloucester’s eye; why then, I cannot but counter-object that collective suicide is no more uncommon a termination to the lives of collectives than individual suicide is to the lives of individuals, and that out of all genres of collectives it is perhaps those of a specifically military stripe that or who most often meet their ends at their own Hindoo-deity-like gaggle of hands.  Who among us—and perhaps least of all among us, grizzled, fart-hookah-puffing pundits—can forget such brazenly suicidal military adventures as the Alamo (which I admittedly might have forgotten by now, had it not been and were it still not for the insane ubiquity-cum-catchiness of the familiar adjurative mnemonic formula), Little Bighorn, and, indeed, virtually every campaign in the first half of the First World War?  To be sure, it is at first blush rather hard to imagine the esprit de kamikaze-corps of an intensity requisite to such adventures springing into being among the assemblage of highly geographically mutually disparate individuals requisite to launching a multi-gigaton nuclear attack, but the feeblest second-blushial exertion of the fancy—an imaginative analogue to reaching for an object as near to hand as the TV remote in one’s bathrobe pocket—will churn up a semi-veritable myriad of plausible scenarios eventuating in such a genesis; scenarios all more or less centering on the blokes and blokesses in the subs and silos’ being whipped up into a jingoistic frenzy-cum-lather by a series of reports and statements transmitted by the organs of mass communication—reports on this or that egregious and unprovoked attack made by some enemy power, and statements from the head of state expressing his or determination not to let such egregious and unprovoked aggression go unpunished; why one can scarcely refrain from picturing one of these dozens of lathered-up sailors or soldiers strutting about his or her cabin or office like a sex-starved bantam cock (or game hen), pumping the air with one or more of his (or her) fists, and repeatedly ejaculating, “I just cain’t wait to get the call from on high and mash that wee plastic disc with my middle fanger.  Soowee!”  All this—i.e., the ca. 2,000 words I have typed since “Of these I shall mention the military register first”—has been a way of saying that however little we may respect Russia as a geopolitical agent, however bumblingly incompetent or flagitiously vicious we may find their actions on the so-called world stage, we really should fear Russia more than any other geopolitical agent full stop (which Briticism reminds me that for the benefit of my non-American readers, I really must add including the United States [i.e., qua possessor of the world’s second-largest nuclear arsenal] to the preceding clause) and accordingly always treat its government’s representatives with something a good deal more civil than flippancy in diplomatic and peri-diplomatic settings.  To be sure, received opinion (perhaps not only today but also in the recent and perhaps even distant past [for the opinioneme in question has the air of something Shih-Tzu or some other ultra-ancient far-eastern wiseacre would have said]) holds that the very most foolish thing one can do when confronting some anal sphincter dilatingly-fear-eliciting entity—in the pertinent exempla almost always a dog, for some reason—is to betray to him, her, or it the merest soupçon of a suspicion that one fears him, her, or it; and indeed, maintains that during a standoff with such an entity there is no surer-firer stratagem for getting him, her, or it to turn around and run away with his, her, or its tail (or most tail-like available appendage) between his, her, or its legs than to file one’s fingernails with sublime detachment while whistling “Dixie” (or whatever other ditty served as the anthem of the losing side in one’s native country’s most recent civil war).   Even as applied to standoffs with mere non-human beasts armed with nothing but their nature-given armaments this opinioneme has always struck me as absolute b*l**cks, inasmuch as it seems to impute to these mere brute critters a power of divination (or paranoia) not often found in even the most sagacious (or paranoid) of human beings—viz., the power to envisage ways in which a nail-file may be employed as a deadly weapon, or in which something even deadlier than a nail-file may be concealed in some hidden receptacle or orifice on or within the person of some puny, utterly unprepossessing bare forkèd (tho’ to all appearances non- fork-possessing) animal.  But as applied to standoffs with artificially armed human beings, and more particularly human beings armed with artificial weapons that can kill instantly and from a distance—why, it strikes me as tantamount to whatever the ne plus ultra of b*l**cks is or are (any attempt to get at this NPU solely via the generally trusty rhetorical technique of amplification gets one nowhere, or, rather, gets one to a certain ultima thule that cuts quite against the grain of the upshot of the present argument, as such hyper-macho monstrosities as blue whale’s b*l**cks and b*l**cks on a dose of steroids equivalent in mass and volume to a blue whale’s daily plankton intake eloquently attest).  For why should a bloke or blokess who has the immediate power of life and death over one care whether one is afraid of him or her at all, inasmuch as one’s lack of fear is powerless to harm him or her, inasmuch as it is incapable (at least for the micro-epochal nonce, while the arts of biological and chemical engineering are doubtless desperately—and yet almost-doubtless not futilely—collaborating towards the realization of grotesquely terrifying psychogenetic events of this very kind) of precipitating the instantaneous germination and maturation of, say, a fully loaded and functional so-called AK47 at the actual tips of one’s fingers?  My own sense of the most prudent way to behave in such anal sphincter-dilating face-offs differs quite stridently from received opinion’s and to its presumptive discredit is indubitably traceable to a much more modern source than Shih-Tzu–namely, a certain dude or bloke, interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air about five (or, more likely—in conformity with the rule, my rule [here, incidentally, is a rule that in contrast to certain others of my devising I should be all too proud to have named after me {q.v. “On the Golden Age of Videotape and 16mm Film”}] that after the age of 40 one should double one’s intuitive estimate of the temporal remoteness of phenomena from one’s own past that incontrovertibly post-date one’s adolescence and yet cannot incontrovertibly be pinned to specific dates—ten) years ago; altho’ to its presumptive credit it is also much more streetwise (or, more properly speaking, sidewalk-wise) than any apothegm devisable by Shih-Tzu or any other ancient far-eastern wiseacre.  Anyway, this dude or bloke, whose name escapes me but is presumably quite easily retrievable (although I am not going to bother to try to retrieve it, partly because it—along with almost all of the bloke’s or dude’s other biographical particulars [including, truth to tell, the bit in the because clause to the immediate right of the final, right-curved bracket of the present parenthesis]—is presumably rhetorically otiose in the present setting, partly out of resentment [resentment of the same flavor as the resentment that peremptorily dissuades me from cooking for myself {q.v. “The Return of Every Man His Own George D. Painter”}] at my financial incapacity to retain a full-time fact-checker) because I remember from the interview that he was the fellow or chap who came up with the now-notorious “Try me: Fly me” advertising slogan for the now long-since-defunct National Airlines, worked for a time as some kind of crime reporter (this biographeme, incidentally, is the raison d’être of the almost all in the immediately preceding parenthesis) and in this capacity was often required to view the bodies of people who had just been killed by gunfire, and he remarked that by far the most common expression on the faces of these hapless individuals (metaphysical scruples preclude my referring to them as ex-individuals {q.v. “Kripkean Metaphysics and Personal Eschatology”}) was not one of overwhelming pain but rather of surprise, surprise that he inferred had been occasioned by their immediate prehumous expectation that they would not be shot despite having just addressed to their firearm-armed confronters words to the brazenly insolent-cum-provocative effect of So you want to shoot me, typo duro?  Go ahead: shoot me.  As if I give a fetid futuacious fuller’s f**k.  And from this inference he induced the staggeringly counterintuitive yet ultimately ineluctably compelling so-called rule of thumb (it really should be christened That Guy or Cove Who Came up with the Now-Notorious “Try Me : Fly Me” Advertising Slogan’s Law in the light of its originality and potentially world-changing character) that when tête-à-tête with a firearm-armed person one should invariably and preeminently be polite.  And surely whatever politesses, whatever bienséances, are owing to a mere bullet-laying regular-sized goose are due in at least equal measure to a warhead-laying Godzilla-sized one; surely at minimum our various foreign ministers and their various envoys ordinary, extraordinary, and plenipotentiary, all of whom are, like the rest of us, compelled incessantly to stare up the, erm, vent of such a Godzilla-sized goose, should not be hallooing words to effect of So you want to shoot me, typo duro?  Go ahead: shoot me. As if I give a fetid futuacious fuller’s f**k up that vent as a mere matter of diplomatic and peridiplomatic course.  And yet mutatis mutandis (specifically the substitution of a bear for a goose) our various foreign ministers et al. have been hallooing just that up that very vent as just such a matter of course at least since 1999—a year that seems particularly eligible as a watershed because the aerial bombardment of the soon-to-be-former Yugoslavia that took place therein, was the first military intervention by NATO that proceeded according to plan despite having been vetoed by Russia at the United Nations Security Council.  The then-president of the Russian Federation, Mr. Yeltsin, bellowed at “us,” meaning every last man, woman, child, dog, cat, gerbil, et al. and etc. in the NATOsphere, that such wanton snubbage of Russia could very well precipitate a nuclear war, but “we,” meaning the a(*)**(*)holes in charge of the foreign policies of the governmental bodies to which every gerbil etc. and et al. in the NATOsphere were (and still are) obliged and compelled to pay either direct or oblique financial tribute, ignored him with a mildly exasperated smile-cum-head-shake, because (so these  soft-spoken, Armani-clad teetotalers reasoned), he was a buffoonish alcoholic with no fashion sense, and therefore utterly harmless despite his immediate access to a multi-gigaton nuclear arsenal.  And “we” were immediately subsequently infinitely obliged to Mr. Yeltsin for his boundless condescension-cum-indulgence in letting “us” have our way in and with the Balkans without discharging a single sub-microton of that arsenal into the NATOsphere, let alone annihilating every last gerbil etc. and et al. therein outright as it was well within his power to do.  And how did “we” respond to this boundless condescension-cum-indulgence from Mr. Yeltsin?  Perchance by prostrating “our”selves at his feet a hundred times in succession in the Kremlin’s counterpart to the Oval Office (as Moscow has its own Byelii Dom or White House, I shouldn’t be surprised if this counterpart to the OO were or was actually styled the most literal Russian translation of oval office)?  No?  Why, then, presumably by at least sending him a bouquet of stoplight roses and a kiloliter of top-shelf vodka (naturally, if perversely, the vodka presumably would have had to originate from one of the trendy NATOsphere-sited distilleries like Rembrandt’s or Gray Goose rather than a Russian one like Standard or Stolichnaya, as during that fiscally very dire microepoch the Russian government’s treasury presumably needed every kopek of customs revenue it could get).  Not even.  “We” responded, rather, by acting as though “we” had never heard his remonstration and blithely flouncing “our” way through the next decade-and-two-thirds as though Russia was or were effectively utterly diplomatically mute and utterly militarily impotent.  I suppose from an-Emily Post-or-Miss Manners’ eye perspective, the perspective of etiquette in the broadest yet purest and ethically most material sense, the low point of this high-hatting of Russia so far has been the Obama administration’s assurance some six years ago that the umpteenth proposed revival of Ronald Reagan’s nuclear defense shield was not by the stretch of the wildest imagination to graphene-ic thinness intended to be a fortification against a nuclear attack from Russia; that it was in fact to be directed at protecting the United States from a nuclear attack by such so-called rogue states as North Korea and Iran—by countries, in other words, that at maximum (then) had no practicable nuclear warhead delivery system faster than fourth-class mail and in some cases had no nuclear weapons at all.  The apparent impossibility of metaphorizing this assertion in terms both naturally plausible and adequately evocative of the scale of the forces in play testifies most eloquently to its as-yet-unsurpassed bumptiousness, chutzpah-hood, and testicular-cum-gluteal fortitude.  In naturally plausible terms, it is perhaps adequately evoked by the image of a white resident of an overwhelmingly black neighborhood in the so-called Deep South’s surrounding his house with an electrified barbed wire fence under the pretext of protecting himself from an invasion of Canadian Eskimos.  But in order adequately to capture the scale of the forces in play, one must posit a scenario of a type perhaps hitherto only stipulated in animated cartoons of the Warner Brothers type—a scenario in which, say, the stockpiler of a kiloton of DDT remonstrates with an asteroid-sized nest of hornets in his attic that he is merely protecting himself from an invasion of ants from some piddling average-sized anthill two miles up the road.  And yet for all the jaw drop-triggering rudeness of the Star Wars revival high-hatting, certain more recent hyperoccidental snubbages of Russia have bade (and continue to bid) even fairer to eventuate in geopolitical disaster.  I am thinking here of the buildup since early 2017 of NATO troops in the Baltics in alleged response to alleged “recent Russian aggression.”  That Russia has aggressed in a militarily strong-cum-geopolitically unignorable sense in recent years cannot be denied.  Most significantly in this sense he, she, or it has annexed Crimea and concurrently taken it away from Ukraine (a.k.a. The Former the Ukraine [and even-more formerly and scandalously The Former Little Russia]).  And while many or perhaps even most of the scads of command-chains and money trails allegedly involved therein often break or turn cold at the most tantalizing places along the way, it does seem almost inconceivable that Mr. Putin and Co. are not actively directing and supporting the Russian quasi-insurgency in southern and eastern Ukraine to some lengthily extensive extent and in some grossly material manner—in other words, that the Russian government is not effectively aggressing in Ukraine in a geopolitically unignorable albeit militarily weak sense.  But as Ukraine is not a Baltic republic, and, indeed, the most Baltic-ward cities in Ukraine, namely Lviv and Rivni, are some 500 miles’ distance from the most Ukraine-ward city in the Baltics, namely Vilnius, it is hard to discern what immediate material bearing Russia’s weak or strong aggression in Ukraine could have on NATO’s militarily strong—and ever-strengthening—defensiveness in the Baltics.  As near as I can tell, this defensiveness has been solely instigated and justified by an argument from analogy, wherein it has been alleged that because as in Ukraine there are large minority Russophone populations in each of the Baltic republics, it is not unlikely that sooner or later each of these republics will have its own Ukraine-style Russophone quasi-insurgency shadily masterminded and bankrolled by Moscow.  Even to a person like the present writer who is almost wholly ignorant of the flavor and temperature of relations between Estonian, Lithuanian, and Latvian speakers, respectively, and Russian speakers (I refuse to dignify any of these aggregations with the mawkishly kitschy honorific of community) in these three nation-states, the scenario envisaged by this argument is plausible enough, because by default one expects any aggregation of Russophones anywhere outside Russia to have something of a chip on its collective shoulders, but qua justification of NATO’s troop buildup in the Baltics qua defensive maneuver it is pure and arrant poppycock.  A defensive maneuver by its very definition is an act directed at a blow that is at minimum already unmistakably aimed at an unmistakably identifiable target.  So in order for NATO’s present Baltic troop buildup in to be justifiable as a defensive maneuver, Russia would at minimum have had to have begun its own Baltic troop build-up, a troop-buildup in the Russian side of the Russo-Estonian, -Lithuanian, or –Latvian border, in advance of the embarkation of even the first jeepload of NATO soldiers for the Baltics (and, more specifically, only the Baltic republic against whose border the Russian buildup was taking place [e.g. {verging on i.e., owing to the geographical isolation of the bit of Russia bordering on Lithuania}, Estonia).  And as such a buildup had not been begun and still (touch ever-diminishing piece of wood) has not begun, the present NATO buildup must be seen if not as an offensive act then at any rate an act no more remote in character from an offensive act than a defensive one; it is probably best termed a provocation.  In the ordinary course of international affairs, Country A does not build up troops along one of the borders of Country B because it, Country A, has formed a mere supposition of what Country B will do on the evidence of what Country B has done before near one of its, Country B’s, other borders; but rather because it, Country A, is itching for a fight with Country B and smugly believes that it, Country A, can win that fight.  And the combined powers of NATO have no right to be smug about winning a fight with Russia, inasmuch as even with the inclusion of France and Britain’s combined total of five hundred nuclear warheads in addition to the United States’ 6,700, NATO’s nuclear arsenal barely stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Russia’s.  It really is just that brutally simple.  And the same calculus really should be applied to any preparation for military engagement with Russia by any geopolitical agent, and indeed I am inclined to believe that it has been applied vis-à-vis certain Russian extra-domestic political maneuvers in very recent history—notably the aforementioned 2014 annexation of Crimea.  In international-legal terms that annexation was absolutely unwarranted, or at any rate no more warranted than Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait in 1990 or, indeed, Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938.  But Vladimir Putin in 2014, in contrast to Saddam Hussein in 1990 or Hitler in 1938, had a 6,700-warhead-strong nuclear arsenal at his disposal; whence, it seems to me, the then highly prudential lack of enthusiasm on the part of the NATO powers for scaring up a multinational anti-Russian military coalition in the teeth of highly vociferous cries of Appeasement! chez their respective bienpensant mobilities.  To be sure, as I have already implied, these cries of Appeasement! were entirely well-founded vis-à-vis the international-legal deserts of the appeasee; but at the same, and ultimately hands-down more materially weighty, time, they were entirely ill-founded vis-à-vis the prospective effect of the appeasee’s full employment of the military resources at his disposal.  The admittedly lamentable FotM is that in present-day geopolitical terms appeasement is a full-fledged anachronism of no more moral weight or moment than wergild or fiefdom in any so-called value judgment pronounced on any political agent’s comportment towards a nuclear power.  Contemporary Britain disapprovers of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler in 1938 were morally entitled to denounce NC’s concession of Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland because the very worst that Hitler could have visited on Britain with all the military might then at his disposal was the partial obliteration of a handful of city-centers and an administratively headache-inducing usurpation of the government–cum-occupation of the Kingdom—in short, a cost quite conceivably worth paying in protest of a morally inexcusable act.  Present-day NATOsphere-residing denouncers of Russia’s belligerence possess no such moral entitlement because if Mr. Putin wishes to he can obliterate not only every city but every jerkwater town, village, and hamlet—and hence every last human being, dog, cat, and indeed gerbil—in the NATOsphere; because, in short, he can compel us to pay a cost that—unless we wish to subscribe LS&B to the fundamentally un-occidental (q.v., Lord willing) principle that death is worse than dishonor always and in every extremity—in annihilating us qua payers would void the transaction of moral significance.  The admittedly lamentable FotM is that a country in possession of a substantial nuclear arsenal can and indeed must be allowed to do pretty much whatever the fudge it wants, and in point of fact throughout the overwhelmingly large portion of the so-called Cold War in which the U.S.S.R. possessed such an arsenal, it was allowed by the U.S. to do pretty much whatever the fudge that it wanted, with nary a cry of appeasement’s consequently being heard from any hyperoccidental to the so-called left of Barry Goldwater (and probably not even by Mr. Goldwater himself in that exact word [at least not very often]).  It is indeed very pleasant to observe that the Berlin Airlift, the single largest and most defiant defiance of Russian military might by the United States to date, concluded in May 1949, a mere four months before the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb, and that the erection of the Berlin Wall twelve years later, by which time the Soviets had exploded many a hydrogen bomb and embarked on an intercontinental ballistic missile-building program, essentially provoked nothing more belligerent than a spell of finger-wagging from the United States.  And the U.S. reacted with comparable material indifference to such other intrinsically unpardonable Soviet military initiatives as the quelling of the 1956 and 1968 revolutions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and the 1980 invasion of Afghanistan.  At immediate present the prevailing attitude to Russia in the hyperoccident bizarrely seems to favor “our” rolling the clock back 68 years and comporting “ourselves” towards the Russkies as if we were all once again living in the days of the Berlin Airlift, when Russia et federated al. were powerless to lift an unvaporizable finger against “us” qua host of the world’s sole nuclear power.  By the “immediate present,” I suppose I mean since no more recently than about three years ago, when for reasons that are completely opaque to me Russophobia started to become one of the three or four main planks of the general bienpensant political platform. (To chalk the change up to the centrality of Russophobia to the specific political platform of the Democratic party during the most recent presidential campaign is to beg the question in the most technically unimpeachable sense of the phrase, for Russia was not then up to anything substantially more nefarious than it had not already been up to during the so-called run-up to the 2014 elections, and even vis-à-vis Mr. Trump’s alleged Russophilia-actuated high crimes or misdemeanors it is reasonable to wonder why none of his business activities in even dodgier nation-States than Russia have received comparable scrutiny.) To be sure, for a long time before then it had been extremely bad form to be ever so faintly or equivocally sympathetic to Russia (what with whatever Putin had done to Pussy Riot and whatnot), but until then it had not been politically mandatory to spend a substantial proportion of one’s waking hours railing against Russia; it had been acceptable to regard the checking of Russian ambition as a niche political program of much less urgency than the pan-sexual integration of restrooms, the defecation of crypto-racists from law-enforcement agencies, and of course that perennial yawn-inducer-cum-a*(*)*(e)-chafer, the retardation of global warming by international, national, regional, local, and above all hyper-local legislative fiat.  Such having been the case, in 2014 the so-called appeasers (who really should be called those playing with at least a so-called bog standard full pinochle deck) in the various hyperoccidental ships of state managed to forestall a hyperoccidental counteroccupation of Crimea that very probably would have touched off the nuclear Apocalypse.  Now that the Russophobes have a sizeable chunk—and possibly even a majority—of the hyperoccidental mobility on their side, it is probably only a matter of the briefest time (barring the obliging supervention of some other daemon qua principal conduit of the hyperoccidental mobility’s fury [I term the supervention obliging because no threat posed or wielded by any daemon, however formidable he, she, or it may be in his, her, or its own person, could be more menacing than a 7,300 warhead-strong nuclear arsenal]) until that selfsame Apocalypse is touched off, until, that is, the Russians—or, to be more precise, at least probabilistically, some individual Russian or other—do(es) something to incense the government—or, to be &c.—some individual human constituent—of one of the hyperoccident’s by-now-seemingly-innumerable traditionally Russophobic national-political fosterlings, and thereby elicit(s) an unignorable several-hundred-larynx-strong ululation of diplomatically unslakeable Russophobic bloodlust from the hyperoccidental mobility.  There are any number of hypothetical scenarios all-too-plausibly descriptive of the eliciting-cum-off touching event; my favorite is a variation of the Anglosphere’s most mythically antediluvian (meaning not necessarily and indeed very probably not the oldest, but the one that is universally regarded as the oldest) joke formula, which goes as follows: this uniformed Russian soldier walks into a bar in downtown Tallinin and orders a shot of Standart or Stolichnaya garnished with a soupcon of ordinary table-pepper (naturally according to the supposedly organic mixological wont of natives of whatever Podunk or indeed jerkwater Russian town he hails from).  As he raises the jigger-glass to his fatally formidably nostrill’d shnoz he unfortunately happens to be inhaling so that a pepper-flake or two is sucked into his inner-nose and precipitate(s) a sneeze whose mistified snotty contents happen to end up on the shoulder of his immediate neighbor, a mufti-clad bloke who thereupon asks him in Russian, but in the fittingly yet fatally nasal tones of some sort of Estonian accent peculiar to certain Estonians who have never learned to speak Russian even half-a(*)*(*)*edly fluently, “I say, old cove-cum-c***t, aren’t you in the Russian army?”  Whereupon the sneezer genially replies in Russian, Yes, i.e., Da, i.e., Да; but unfortunately his geniality is thwarted by his accent, which happens to sound exactly like that peculiar to Lasnamäe, Tallinin’s most heavily Russophone and hence most Estoniophobic neighborhood or district, so that the sneeze-victim feels duty-bound to hop forthwith on to his mobile-blower, ring up NATO HQ (whose digits he has speed dial-programmed against just this sort of exigency), and say to the receptionist (in impeccable Etonian [yes, Johnny Yobbo {not to be confused with any previous DGR of mine (tho’ who knows what might be in store for him in the improbably non-Apocalyptic future?)}, that’s Etonian not Estonian] English, natch), “Would you please put me through to Herr Stoltenberg?”  And the rest, as they say, or should say, is the very-end-of-human-history-cum-mere beginning of the history of mushroom cloud-patterned curtains.  Doh!-stroke-What a congeries of pointlessly mutually affiliated cahntrees, or, rather, c**teries!  One (i.e., I, albeit probably no other living human being) might well (i.e., really do) wonder what miasma, will-o’-the-wisp, or phantasmagoria could be sufficiently potent to persuade every last member of the hyperoccidental mobility that he or she had in geopolitical terms been spirited away back to early 1949.  And the only plausible contender for such an office that has so far occurred to one is the hyperprosaic but serviceable miasma autc. of lack of media coverage of the existence of the two extant multi-gigaton nuclear arsenals.  In other words, it seems likely to me that because these two arsenals are hardly ever mentioned in the news (if, for instance, to impart a sense of their effective mediatic nullity, each and every mention by a major news service be analogously equated in rhetorical force with the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, these two arsenals would be rhetorically dwarfed by Arsenal Football Club perhaps five times as dramatically as the Hiroshima bomb is dwarfed in point of brute TNT-tonnage-yield by the paired nuclear arsenals themselves) the weit(e[r/s]) if not accablant majority of the hyperoccidental mobility is or are but dimly aware of them, and a substantial plurality of that mobility is or are entirely ignorant of their existence.  To be sure, nuclear weapons tout court are in the news not all that infrequently, almost invariably in connection with the wily shenanigans of the Iranians or North Koreans, but in these cases one is at most-cum-worst being asked to contemplate an embryonic nuclear arsenal of ultimately no greater immediate destructive force than the U.S.’s in, say, 1950.  And as it has been probably more than a full quarter-century—i.e., the interval separating us from the signing of the START II treaty—since the two big nuclear arsenals were even intermittently in the headlines, is it not reasonable to suppose that there are enormous numbers—say, tens of millions—of purportedly educated and well-informed hyperoccidentals under the age of 30, or even as old as 40, who are entirely unaware of these arsenals, or at the very least, unaware of the sheer destructive power thereof?  For all the asperity of my preliminary strictures on those who cannot be a(*)*(*)ed to brief themselves on historical periods antedating their own births, I am not entirely unsympathetic to these so-called millennials’ ignorance on this score, for I can remember a micro-epoch quasi-consubstantial with the present one when I was wholly ignorant of the existence of these arsenals (which were then substantially larger than they are now), and owing perhaps to exactly consubstantial causes.  I am thinking of the very early 1980s (cf. Whit Stillman’s Last Days of Disco), and my certainty of my ignorance on the present score during that micro-epoch is owing to a memory of the lamentation of purportedly imminent nuclear war by some nutter of a drunk-tank inmate in an episode of the classic mid mid-70s-through-late early-80s cop-sitcom Barney Miller.  As at the time my only association of the word nuclear with anything remotely baleful hailed from the then-quite-recent and meta-Arsenal FC-scale coverage of the partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, I could not but picture a nuclear war as some sort of reciprocal deliberate synchronized induction of meltdowns in all the nuclear power plants within the warring parties’ dominions—a wildly inefficient modus belli gerendi, to be sure, by comparison with an exchange of bombs, and yet also an eerily quasi-plausible one now that State-sponsored so-called cyber-terrorism is all the rage as the next big thing in sub-Apocalyptic war-making.  Anyway, it seems to me quite likely that I thought of a nuclear war along such China Syndrome-ian lines rather than along Dr. Strangelove-ian ones at that time simply because the news media had not lately been feeding us much reportage on or many images of nuclear weaponry proper and its prospective use in military conflict—this probably largely as a legacy of so-called détente, the relaxation of tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union beginning not long after the Cuban Missile Crisis and continuing, despite such long-simmering potential nuclear-Apocalyptic flashpoints as the Vietnam War and the well-nigh actualized nuclear-Apocalyptic flashpoint of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, until the very late mid-70s.  Of course, now, in the long present—meaning since about 1994—the so-called Cold War is conceived of as a single ummottled hard cheese-block of uniformly mutual geopolitical animosity tidily book-ended (or vice-gripped) by the years 1949 and 1989, but the residents of the micro-epoch of détente took a markedly different view of the epochology.  In their view, the perdurance of the Cold War was largely a lingering but thankfully moribund holdover from the so-called McCarthy era.  To be sure, the détente microepoch-residents acknowledged, the hyperoccidental and Communist blocs were still governed along radically mutually incommensurable political lines, but now (so the détente microepoch-residents asserted) that no hyperoccidental politician of any geopolitical consequence believed or even faintly feared that the Soviet Union was trying to take over, let alone destroy, the non-Communist semi-world—now that Senator McCarthy himself and his State-Departmental counterpart John Foster Dulles were long dead and Mr. Goldwater and his Red-bashing crew (consisting partly of the Pentagon hawks whose influence had made the Kennedy administration much more hawkish than it would have liked to be) had given over their national-governmental ambitions—the danger of an outright military confrontation between the U.S.S.R. et al. and the U.S.A. et al. had been greatly reduced and was creeping asymptotically (and presumably inexorably) ever closer to zero.  Why, if memory serves me faithfully—and I see no reason for mistrusting it as the memory in question hails not from my détente-microepoch early childhood but from my immediately post-START II early adulthood, when I most recently consulted the texts in question—the period of détente even saw the publication of diplomatic and military policy analyses that referred to the Cold War unreservedly in the past tense, as in such constructions as “at the height of the Cold War, in 1953,” or “at the very end of the Cold War, in 1963.”  Of course, in 1981 the hard-line Goldwater-style Republican Ronald Reagan was elected president and immediately altered the tone, if not the substance, of the U.S.’s disposition to the Soviet Union, such that the Soviet and American nuclear arsenals started regularly appearing in the headlines once again, and the Cold War ceased to be a prospective anachronism, but the détente microepoch residents had not known or even expected this, and there is no sane reason to blame them for not having known or expected it, because then as now the U.S. polity and public were virtually evenly divided (or uniformly befuddled) on so-called key foreign policy issues, such that at least inasmuch as the executive branch of the U.S. had any say in the matter, détente might very well have continued well into the 1980s and indeed well into the 21st century; but by this or that same token, there is no sane reason to pardon the détente microepoch residents—or, at any rate, those of them old enough to have known better (for fudge’s sake, the present writer was only eight years old at the very end of détente micro-epoch and therefore at least a year-and-a-half younger than the comparatively grizzled youngster who learned that Leonid Brezhnev was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union autc.)–for having ever taken their eyes off the multigigaton matzoh-ball, for having regarded the geopolitical program, official or otherwise, of the Soviet government as being of greater material geopolitical weight than that government’s 45-to-65 percent share in that matzoh-ball, and the long present’s reflexive appraisal of Mr. Yeltsin’s and then Mr. Putin’s geopolitical habitus in feigned or actual ignorance of that share, though equally eminently comprehensible, is equally damnably unpardonable.

Like or as I said or was saying, I find the military register of Russia’s present geopolitical grandeur superlatively boring, and thirteen single-spaced pages later, I trust the reader (DG or otherwise) shares my boredom.  But our fellow-feeling-cum-unanimity vis-à-vis this one index of Russia qua third-greatest great power is certainly no guarantee that we shall be of one heart-cum-mind vis-à-vis the next index thereof that I shall adduce—viz., the admittedly hypernaff, shopworn, moth-eaten, and indeed downright corny one of brute geographical expansiveness-cum-capaciousness.  At some point in the 1980s—not the very early 1980s, mind you—the Canadian-American sketch comedy show SCTV devoted an episode to a supposed satellite feed from Soviet television, and one of the phony Soviet programs included therein consisted solely of the presenter (Dave Thomas)’s bombastically boastful demonstrations of how many smaller countries could be fitted into an outline map of the U.S.S.R.  “Look,” he would triumphantly remark while pointing at the map, “Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey, West Germany, and Zaire [not that I can remember the names of any of the countries actually in-fitted or have been able to be a***d to try to find them out via You T**be beforehand; I include the last two by way of imparting an air of period verisimilitude to the catalogue] are now in map.  But map still has much room for other countries.  How mighty is Soviet Union!”  The scenario was silly enough to be funny but at the same time rational enough to be an object of satire: there was indeed no getting round either the fact that the U.S.S.R. was the world’s most geographically expansive and capacious country or the conclusion that merely maintaining this brute geographical supremacy was something the Soviet State was entitled to take some more than negligible measure of pride in.  Of course, the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. in 1991 left the Russian Federation bereft of its watertight political affiliation with three handfuls (minus a finger whose selection I bequeath as an exercise to the reader) of former Soviet republics turned independent nation-States, each of which carried away along with it a portion of the U.S.S.R.’s former geographical bulk.  But so huge a share of that bulk had been occupied by the Russian S.F.S.R. (they don’t or didn’t call the largest of the former S.F.S.R.s, the former The Ukraine, “Little Russia” for nothing), that the new Russian N.(S.)F.N.(S.)R. was still the biggest country in the world by a staggering margin—viz. nearly two-and-three-quarters-of a million miles or 71% of the land-mass of the second-biggest country, Canada.  Of course, the Soviet Union had never been the world’s most populous country, and the severance of the former S.F.S.R.s substantially albeit not dramatically reduced its standing in that alternative reckoning of greatness.  (I have already touched on Russia’s helplessness on the score of the third and now-most-fetishized RoG, that of GDP, and I shall not touch on it again until I reach my explication of No. 2 in the above itemized list of assertions, without which explication this helplessness is not worth any further ontouching.)  And so athwart the physical-geographical argument in favor of Russia’s greatness there runs a counterargument that most of Russia’s corporeal bulk is effectively empty space inasmuch as it is devoid of human inhabitants.  And even to a prevailingly misanthropic creature such as the present writer this argument is in a certain register quite plausible and even compelling; for inasmuch as despite my prevailing misanthropy I concede that caeteris paribus (and of course the caeteris are hardly anywhere near to being paribus) every patch of land is made more estimable by its occupation by a human being, I am compelled further to concede that, say, India is in a certain way a greater country than Russia simply because it has more than several times as many human inhabitants.  But I also believe that tenuity of human habitation has a peculiar grandeur of its own, a grandeur akin or at least analogous to that of the sun, which for all its size and incandescent brilliance is after all nothing but a big ball of gas—a state of matter much more full of empty space than the liquid and solid ones.  Consider, if you will, Russia’s easternmost and westernmost major cities, St. Petersburg and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy.  The former city lies at the approximate longitude of Cairo, the latter at that of Sydney.  A scant 1,200 miles separate the former from the Prime Meridian, and an even scanter 600 separate the latter from the International Dateline.  In short, the distance between these two cities spans seventeen-twentieths of the eastern hemisphere and a quarter of the circumference of the entire globe as measured at the equator.  Terrestrial distances between two points simply and literally cannot get more than one-and-a-third times as long as the distance between St. Petersburg and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy.  When one ponders the virtual practical insuperability of this distance, the confounded insolence of former President Barack Obama’s description of Russia as a “regional power” becomes starkly, risibly apparent.  But in the present instance I am not adverting to St. Petersburg and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy qua two intrinsically and mutually impartial geometrical points but rather qua two mutually partial Russian cities—two sizeable agglomerations of people within whose confines Russian sovereignty is generally acknowledged and the Russian language is generally spoken and understood.  Of course, of the pair only St. Petersburg in comprising more than five-and-a-quarter million inhabitants, is a proper metropolis, a big city in the strong sense, but Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy is certainly no mere glorified village.  Comprising as it does more than 180,000 inhabitants, it is demographically larger than such formidable hyperoccidental middleweights as Macon, Georgia; Bern, Switzerland; and Guelph, Canada—cities that all enjoy the amenities of road and rail communication with the so-and-rightly-called outside world, amenities that Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy has been compelled to forgo from its foundation onwards.  (I daresay that if bereft of these amenities, the present inhabitants of Guelph, Bern, and Macon would high-tail it to Toronto, Zurich, and, Atlanta [or, indeed, if these cities let them down on the same score, to Buffalo, Strasbourg, and El Paso] as fast as their legs or wings would carry them.  And yet for all its brute physical-geographical isolation Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy somehow contrives to be a city inhabited almost solely by people who style themselves Russians as unabashedly as tenth-generation St. Petersburgers and speak as their native tongue a language universally known as Russian.  For a sense of the scale of political grandeur of this instance of physical-geographical transcendence, one need only compare it to its closest analogues in the United States.  The most obvious such analogue is of course the pairing of Nome, Alaska, our northernmost and westernmost incorporated city, and Key West, Florida, our southernmost and easternmost one.  But of course Nome with its piddling 3,800 inhabitants is a city in legal name only, and Key West, though a sizable burglet of 26,000 souls, is certainly in no danger of being twinned with Guelph, Bern, or Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy.  If one even dreams of rendering demographic justice in the analogue one must scale it down so that it is bounded by the two most mutually distant 100,000-inhabitants-plus-sized cities in the so-called lower 48 States, namely Seattle, Washington and Miami, Florida.  Here, of course and imprimis, one notices that the intrametropolitan distance of 3,300 miles is risibly small by comparison with that between St. Petersburg (Russia not Florida) and P-K, but I do not wish to make very much of this shortfall because 3,300 miles is still jaw drop-elicitingly long by most intranational standards, and notably by comparison with certain other maximum caliper-compasses attainable in certain other polities that I wish to belittle even more disparagingly than I am now belittling the United States (more on these anon).  At present I think it most fitting to draw attention to the analogue’s shortcomings in the linguistic register as manifested by the fact that while (at least to the best of the present writer’s knowledge) English is the only first language spoken by any demographically substantial proportion of the population of Seattle, a highly significant proportion, and possibly even a majority, of the population of Miami speak Spanish rather than English as their first language.  And of course one may delineate if not quite a myriad then at the very least a hemi-hecaiad of shorter crow’s-flight trajectories disembarking from Seattle and alighting in some comparably hefty or appreciably heftier Stateside metropolitan conurbation in which Spanish rather than English is the first language of a highly significant proportion of the conurbation’s populace (including, incidentally, a demographically substantial proportion of that conurbation’s U.S. citizens)—Seattle to Los Angeles, Seattle to San Diego, Seattle to Brownsville, Seattle to El Paso, Seattle to Las Cruces, etc.  Such trajectories, mutatis mutandis, are virtually undelineable within the present borders of the Russian Federation.  Place one tip of your calipers on any indisputably Russophone Russian city such as St. Petersburg or P-K, and you are as safe as houses to bet hundred-ruble-notes to bubliki that the first named cis-Russian border dot that will present itself as a touchdown-point for the opposite tip will be a town or city inhabited almost exclusively by Russophones.  And it should not be forgotten that the language spoken by these Russophones in these cities is named Russian after the country of Russia, the country in which these cities are all sited.  By contrast, the language prevailingly spoken in Seattle (though not in Los Angeles, San Diego, Brownsville, El Paso, Las Cruces, etc.) is not named American or United Statesian but English after the country of England sited some 3,200 miles from the nearest point to it in the United States.  Of course, many times more people speak this language in the United States than in any other country including England, but this demographic fact does not in any way or to any extent alter England’s proprietorship of this language.  (In this regard the Scots [and no, as “Against Intralingual Diversity” makes plain, I do not consider Scots a language], Welsh, Irish, Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian Anglophones are obviously all in scaled-down versions of the same sad boat as the one occupied by us Yank Anglophones.)  No matter how many people speak English in the United States relative to England—and no matter, indeed, whether or not England as a political-cum-geographical entity continues to exist—unless or until English is rechristened American or United Statesian or some other nominalized toponymic adjective pairing it inalienably with the United States and with no other political-cum-geographical entity (and the failure even of an American Anglophobe as famous as H. L. Mencken to effect such a rechristening—and this at a time when Americans were generally much less well-disposed to the English than they are now—suggests that it is not likely to be effected anytime soon given that no American Anglophobe of any fame whatsoever seems to be agitating for it now), it will be incapable of serving as what one may term a hard signifier of the United States’ ontological integrity.  I have no interest in asserting either that this utterly-contingent-but-for-all-that-seemingly-utterly-obdurate nomenclatural obduracy is a good thing or that it is a bad thing.  Hang about-stroke scratch that: I actually have a great deal of interest in emphatically asserting that it is a good thing—partly as a semi-Anglophile and partly as a Johnsonian Tory who obdurately believes that change qua change is always a bad thing.  But at least at the present moment this interest is not in play, at least not qua detractor of the United States qua headquarters of Anglophonia.  At the present moment I merely wish to point out that the United States’ logical inability to declare itself the eponym of a language spoken more or less universally within its own borders makes it, the United States, a much more loosely ontologically constituted entity than Russia, and consequently a lesser power than Russia in at least one non-trivial respect.  To be sure, linguistic eponymity is not the only, or necessarily even the most formidable, tool of hard signification at the disposal of a territory-qua-polity seeking to establish or shore up its own ontological integrity, and at least at the present moment the United States wields a number of such tools with considerable, or at least conceivably super-Russian, skill, panache, and aplomb.  The most eloquent of these tools now in operation is probably our Interstate Highway System, with its inalienable and unmistakable sans serif white-lettered and red white and blue shield-surmounted green signs, which are indeed conspicuously present all over this land, including in each and every one of the aforementioned prevailingly non-Anglophone conurbations.  While Jose Seis-Tecate-Pack in El Paso or Las Cruces may know (or fail to know) his culo rather than his ass from un hoyo en la tierra, he is as abjectly dependent as his gringo fellow-ciudadanos on the signage of the interstate highway system to get from Mesa Vista to Durazno or Paseo de Onate to East Madrid Avenue.  And yet the present sweep, solidity, instant identifiability, and pervasiveness of the U.S. Interstate Highway System is no cause for outright smugness about the ontological integrity of the United States qua polity-cum-territory, for systems of parallel sweep, solidity, instant identifiability, and pervasiveness all over this land have proved or bid fair to prove as evanescent as a dodo masquerading as a mayfly.  Consider, for unignorable ready-to-hand example, the more ancient non-limited-access U.S. Highway System.  A combination of intrametropolitan assimilation into local throughways and intermetropolitan desuetude has effectively annihilated this system qua anything more substantial than a(n) historical relic, and indeed, the famous continent-spanning Route 66 has been so ruthlessly cannibalized and negligently left to rot that it may justly now be reckoned a kind of American Appian Way.  Consider, too, a less ready-to-hand yet for all that perhaps no less chilling example, that dictionary-margin-worthy illustration of the idiom ghost of its former self, the United States Postal System.  For the nonce, its familiar arch-topped navy-blue boxes remain fixtures of our urban landscapes and its slightly less familiar (because forever morphing in make, model, and label-design) white-blue-and-red (sic [I have listed the colors in descending order of visual-field-occupation]) delivery trucks and vans fixtures (though roving fixtures) of our suburban landscapes as well, but now that Seinfeld’s USPS carrier Newman’s highly reluctant (and in its time scandalous) admission that nobody needs mail has been actualized as an idée reçue, the USPS’s days as an ontological signifier of U.S. sovereignty are probably more than figuratively numbered.  And recent proclamations by even the most disinterested sources that after a long identity crisis the USPS qua rapid package-delivery service is now fairly thriving and that indeed in its fulfillment of this rapid package-delivering function the USPS’s best, or at least most remunerative, days may still lie ahead of it, have absolutely no detractive bearing on this glum prognosis of mine, at least in the short term; for at least for the nonce the USPS qua rapid package-delivery service is an Uncle Sammy-Come-Lately in a crowded field of wholly non-governmentally affiliated rapid package-delivering firms, notably Fed Ex, UPS, and, most troublingly of all from the perspective of a would-be maintainer of the United States’s ontological integrity, that Germany-headquartered (and color-schemed) Paketlieferunggesellschaft, DHL.  Indeed, as of this writing it is not only conceivable but entirely plausible (though admittedly not very probable) that DHL will trounce all its rivals including the USPS and thus become the sole rapid-package-delivering-firm operational within the borders of the United States.  Why the scenario is enough to make Benjamin Franklin qua first postmaster-general turn in his grave.  This is not to say that I am saying that even if every cubic inch of cardboard delivered from Seattle to Miami and between and among all points in between were swathed in the Vaterland-evoking red-and-yellow DHL livery Americans would ever come to suppose that they lived in the seventeenth German Land.  Indeed, more than likely in such a case most of them would not even realize that DHL was not an American company, just as most of them probably do not know (inasmuch as the present writer himself has only recently learned this) that their aspirin-manufacturer of first resort, Bayer, is headquartered in Germany.  What is to say that I am saying is merely but not trivially that the ontological integrity of a polity not inalienably because eponymously bound up with a language is perforce a piecemeal affair that is necessarily subject to—and in the course of time invariably if not inevitably subjected to—erosion in all sorts of registers by all sorts of agents, and that such a polity must never smugly depend on its official institutions abstractly considered to shore it up against a collapse into absolute nullity in the most strictly conceivable (albeit conceivably trivial) sense.  To particularize this point: we Americans must not rely on, say, the mere uninterrupted functioning of our Federal government to insure that something called the United States of America continues to exist inasmuch as the ontological footprint of our Federal government eo ipso is certainly much tinier than that of our Interstate Highway system and very probably at least a bit tinier than that of Federal Express and UPS, albeit at least a wee bit bigger than that of DHL and Bayer.  The present writer has enjoyed and exploited ample opportunity to observe and marvel at the tininess of this U.S. Federal-governmental ontological footprint thanks to his 22-year-long-and-counting residence in the sub-Federal State of Maryland.  In gross gross domestic productive terms, Maryland is a virtual colony of the U.S. Federal Government owing to its immediate abutment on the District of Columbia (if the Providence that is merely the eponym of the capital of Rhode Island and not to be confused with that city itself allow[s] I shall have more to say on the indispensability of geographical propinquity qua administrative lubricant semi-anon).  Despite this, my sightings of material exhibits of evidence of the Federal occupation have been few and rare.  Here in Baltimore City, my place of residence in the strong sense, I can think of only one such exhibit that I have ever clapped my eyes on—viz., the vertically rather low-slung if horizontally not unimposing George H. Fallon Federal Building in the city center, more specifically on the north side of Lombard Street and across Hopkins Place from the Royal Farms Arena.  (It could not implausibly be argued that Federal Hill, at the southern end of the Inner Harbor, merely in virtue of its name, and the Star Spangled Banner House and Fort McHenry, in virtue of their association with the consecration of the flag of the federated republic as a national emblem, also constitute bits of Federal footprintage; but I am inclined to reject this argument on the grounds that Federal Hill does not conspicuously advertise its own name in situ, and that at least since the proscription of the display of the so-called Stars and Bars in most former Confederate states, the flying of the so-called Stars and Stripes has signified an at-most half-hearted endorsement of the federal system of government tout court, and no sort of endorsement at all of the U.S. Federal government specifically.)  And even during my on-average-biyearly traversal of the so-called Baltimore-Washington corridor, a cluster of mutually parallel transportational arteries alongside which are parked such formidable organs of the U.S. Federal government as Fort Meade, the Goddard Space Flight Institute, and the National Security Agency, I have yet to catch a glimpse of so much as the tiniest scrap of architectural evidence, to be vouchsafed the briefest of shuftis of the lower ankle of a cornice or cornerstone, capable of convincing me that the Federal sub-entities in question are not utter chimeras, veritable Potemkin villages or staged moon landings without the houses or the moon; indeed, had my trusty Rand McNally and ADC atlases (or the signage along Interstate Highway 95 and Maryland Highway 295, visible only during the minority of occasions on which I have traversed the corridor in question by bus or car rather than by train) not informed me otherwise, I never would have supposed central Maryland to be a jot more richly or oppressively occupied by the Feds than the most states-rightsist tract of Fedaphobia in the so-called Bible belt or so-called Deep South; and, indeed, it is only several minutes after I have penetrated the limits of Washington City itself, and the Washington Monument and Capitol dome finally elbow their way into view from behind hundreds of acres of mid-rise commercial and residential real estate, that I get any sort of sense that I am in the quasi-municipal headquarters of the U.S. Federal government rather than in any old (with the emphasis on old) small-to-mid-sized Atlantic city, be it Baltimore, Washington [DC not PA], Wilmington [DE not NC] Newark [NJ not DE], or Philadelphia [PA not AM].  In short-stroke-at bottom, even in its most established precincts, in locales wherein a plurality of the population must call it its (or their) employer and bread-giver, and wherein scarcely a living human individual does not depend at least indirectly on it for his or her livelihood, the U.S. Federal government seems to be doing its best to keep a low profile, as they say.  Its away-tuckedness even in these precincts in which it holds greatest sway reminds me of Longinus’s admittedly disputable aperçu on the retired situation of the genitals on the human body and suggests that somebody of some perduring influence (exactly who is difficult to pin down [for if one flags this somebody either as the American people or the Federal government itself one is attributing to some quite gargantuan-cum-nebulous collective entities a kind and degree of moral-cum-political calculus of which they hardly seem capable]), far from wishing to boast of the U.S.F.G.’s grandeur and might, is actually and painfully ashamed of its very existence.  In gross economic terms the Tea-Partiers and their even more Whiggish successors have doubtless been well within their rights to rail against the k***u-like growth of big government, for there is no denying that the U.S. Federal government is a substantially larger entity by all salient economic measures—viz. the number of agencies under its umbrella, the amount of money it takes in and expends, and the number of people working for it—than it was a hundred or even fifty years ago; such that if one wishes to defend the U.S.F.G. one really must do so on purely utilitarian grounds; one must, in other words, argue that the American people are materially better off for all this Federal-governmental growth than they would have been without it, for in order to defend the U.S.F.G on the grounds of the unreality of the expansion, one must descend to such a minutely microhistorical level—to the fleetingly frugal fiscal policy of this or that Congress or this or that half-term of a presidency—as to invite and indeed secure trouncing by anyone who takes even the most modestly long view, the view of, say, a single decade (i.e., five Congresses or two-and-a-half single-term presidencies).  All the same, if (heaven forfend!) shove is ever accosted by push—if, that is, the Fed-bashers ever start properly feeling their oats and genuinely thinking they can get away with throwing their weight around, if they ever get it into their heads to call upon a thousand torch-wielding mobs of peasants (i.e., twenty such mobs per state) to incinerate the nearest totem of U.S. Federal sovereignty, the nearest Bastille-analogue, as it were, it would seem that they are going to be rather hard-pressed to get more than two-or-three-fifths of a handful of these mobs to their targets without resorting to highly detailed directions—e.g., “Take I-68 to Exit 53, take a right on to U.S. 27, follow it to State Road 46, take a left, follow SR46 to County Road 49 (a.k.a. Bent Spoon Lane [a.a.k.a. Uri Geller Way]), take a left, and a half a mile farther along, just past the Dairy Queen, you’ll espy a gray two-story building.  That, my fellow friends of liberty, is the district office of the god-awful bloodsucking Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement”—which is as good as to say that they won’t manage to get them there at all, because nothing takes the wind out of the sails (i.e., torches) of a torch-wielding mob of peasants more efficaciously than having to pull off the road every five minutes to consult a sat-nav map.  But the prospective fecklessness of the would-be Fed-torchers is certainly cause for smugness on the part of any would-be (and presumably firehose-or water bucket-armed) Fed-defenders, for the more than figuratively myriad sites of Federal-governmental activity are as out-of-the-way, obscure, and recondite to them as they are to their adversaries; meaning that if word got round in their camp that torch-wielding mobs of would-be Fed-destroying peasants were a-car, they (the presumably firehose-or water bucket armed would-be Fed-defenders) would likewise have to rely on their leaders and personal sat-navs to reach their posts and would consequently be just as vulnerable to throwing in the towel on the whole thing and heading back home for pizza, TV, coition, autc.     

All this since my mention of Nome, Alaska has essentially been by way of building up to a cautionary meta-ontological-cum-meta-rhetorical comparison of the United States since the mid-twentieth century to the European Union since its foundation.  Admittedly the present moment is not exactly a salutary one for drawing this comparison either tactfully or non-hysterically.  Now that nobody in the European Union apart from the core membership of the British Liberal Democratic Party (whose Europhilia, as it basically amounts to Francophilia, would collapse in a trice if France withdrew from the EU) seems to be positively enthusiastic about the EU, and that all energies within it seem to be directed towards simply holding the gosh-d**n thing together for another year or so, the suggestion that any political entity that has managed not only to subsist intact but expand both territorially and demographically over a period of more than a century-and-a-half bears any comparison whatsoever to such a political rattletrap-cum-tatterdemalion cannot but seem—well, not to put too fine a point on it, both barmy and bonkers.  Nevertheless, I believe that the comparison must be drawn because there really is no other currently extant polity that bears any credible comparison whatsoever with the United States in terms of its raisons d’être et de ne se faire foutre pas immédiatement—or less credible comparison with Russia in those selfsame terms.  Granted: the EU doesn’t have a polity-spanning limited-access highway network, and the U.S. does.  Granted: the EU doesn’t have a polity-spanning mail-delivery network, and the U.S. does.  Granted: the EU doesn’t even have a polity-spanning currency, and the U.S. does.  But beyond these admittedly powerful bonding agents, on the formidableness of the strength of two of which I have already expatiated, what has the U.S. really got holding it together?  The Constitution, you (by no means a DGR) say?  But the EU has got and does have a constitution of its own.  To be sure, its constitution is barely a quarter as old as the U.S. Constitution, but it is no less legally binding within the borders of the EU than the U.S. Constitution is within the borders of the U.S.  And then of course we must remember that the U.S. Constitution is always subject to alteration or, in constitutional-legal terms, to amendment.  The ever-self-renewing tribe of anal-hookah-huffing boosters of our polity never cease praising this subjection under the incantatory auspices of the word flexibility, but in material legal terms the constitutional attribute so called might no less aptly (if admittedly much less elegantly) be dubbed toss-out-a/i-bility, because it effectively amounts to a blank check to the citizenry to alter the constitution, or even to abolish, it whenever they durn-well please.  To be sure, since the incorporation of the Bill of Rights into the U.S. Constitution amendments have been rare events, and the two most recent of them, the twenty-seventh and twenty-sixth (prohibiting sitting members of Congress to vote themselves raises and allowing eighteen-year-olds to vote, respectively) were and are so ancient, equitable, and equable that one cannot help inferring from them that the old USC (not to be confused with the vintage battleship of the same name) is in absolute shipshape.  All the same, one must acknowledge, first, that the process of Constitutional amendment has brought about some pretty far from equable, and indeed downright radical, changes in the law of the entire polity, changes that were far from universally popular and that were consequently implemented at best (or worst, depending on your attitude to the amendment in question) halfheartedly in substantial subdomains of the polity and that in one case—the 18th Amendment, prohibiting the manufacturing and sale of alcohol within the polity—were even ultimately subject to reversal by counter-amendment; second, that the U.S. Constitution, however it has happened to stand at any given historical moment, has always been something of a hermeneutic Rorschach blot in many of its paragraphs, such that hair’s-width demographic majorities have contrived to insinuate de facto amendments into it (here I am of course thinking mainly of the legalization of abortion via a highly controversial interpretation of the fourteenth amendment); and finally, that the Constitution itself stipulates that the entire process of amendment can be circumvented by the calling of what it (the Constitution) terms “a convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” and that all sorts of famous and notorious individuals and collectivities of both narrow views and substantial influence have been clamoring for such a convention in recent decades, and that that clamor is almost certainly as loud now as it ever has been.  In short, to the extent that one views an ideal polity as a polity in which everyone living under its auspices finds his or her existence at least minimally tolerable in every significant register, one must view the U.S. Constitution as a failure qua guarantor-cum-administrator of those auspices, inasmuch as it has quite handily and skillfully, and indeed with the delicate precision of a deli-meat slicer, seen to it that very nearly exactly one half of the U.S. population will perpetually feel itself (or themselves) to be living under (or in) a ruthlessly implacable tyranny, inasmuch as it (or they) will perpetually feel itself (or themselves) to be legally compelled to defer to the will of an at-best-technical majority and in some cases (notably those determined by the outcome of a presidential election) outright minority with whom it at least purportedly passionately disagrees on some issue that it regards as being of paramount moral significance.  Such being the case, our only present quasi-guarantors against an instant instant-replay of the American Civil War are, first, the geographical, and consequently political, dispersal of those peremptorily committed to this or that purportedly morally un**umpable issue—by which I essentially mean the well-nigh dropsical plethora of so-called pro-choice, anti-gun, &c. types in the urban centers of even the reddest of the so-called red states (the appalling displacement in the American political imagination of the color red qua dedicated synecdoche of Communism by the color red qua dedicated synecdoche of Redneckism will, it is to be hoped, be addressed at due length in a more seasonable passage within the present essay) and the complementary superabundance of so-called pro-life, anti-gun, &c. types in the rural hinterlands of even the bluest of the so-called blue states, such that a demographically representative solid regional political bloc would seem to be difficult albeit not quite impossible to assemble; and second, the probability that the prevailing mass of all the immoderately self-righteous talk about issues such as abortion and gun control amounts to what Samuel Johnson termed cant, a mere “mode of talking in society” that for all its outward shews of passion is incapable of making its exponent “sleep an hour less or eat an ounce less meat,” such that even if  the Second Amendment is repealed (or, more likely, modified to exclude Gatling Guns, howitzers, etc. by another amendment) and Roe versus Wade is overturned in the Supreme Court, the very hardest of the hardcore NRA members and pro-choicers will betake themselves to the nearest shopping mall (or to the A****n website) with their pocketbooks as usual rather than as per unprecedented to the nearest district office of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement or Roman Catholic parish church with torches (incidentally, by torches I have all along meant actual old-timey flame-sporting torches and not what we Yanks term flashlights).  Such, I say, are the only quasi-guarantors against a second American Civil War, and I term them quasi-guarantors because vis-à-vis the first one I suspect that it could have been (and indeed was) adduced mutatis mutandis by various Whiggish personalities and interests vis-à-vis the plausibility of a first American Civil War, and that in hindsight the present enclaves of bluestate-ism in red states and vice-versa will appear as nugatory and ineffectual as Atlanta’s chapter of the Anti-Slavery Society and Boston’s chapter of…well, I won’t be so flippant for mere parallelism’s sake as to let fall the name of the most notorious consonantal analogue to the American Automobile Association, but I trust there were certain well-heeled white Bostonians sympathetic to Southern slave-owners qua fellow quasi-patricians; and vis-à-vis the second it must be out-pointed that although people (or, if you insist, the people) do indeed tend not to care about even the supposedly most burning issues enough to sleep an hour less or eat an ounce less meat just because their way of handling those issues has not been ratified by whatever powers happen to be being, the act of ratification itself, being more or less instantaneous in each of its phases, however slowly the full sequence of phases may play out, exacts no such Johnsonian-cum-Frankfurtarian degree of commitment, such that people (or the people) tend very readily to set in motion legislative changes that in the fairly-to-very short run do cause them to sleep less and eat less (or more likely, under the sway of the current mental-hygienic orthodoxy of gluttony-as-so-called self medication, more) meat and that may indeed put the acts of sleeping and eating entirely out of their power.  The probabilistic logic in play here is essentially identical to that which I have described as being in play vis-à-vis the heads of State in charge of nuclear arsenals: while at all times every version and tributary of self-interest peremptorily counter-indicates pressing the button, the mere ready-to-hand-ness of the button makes its pressing all too likely owing to the intermittent yet ever-recurring supervention of impulses recklessly heedless of all versions and tributaries of self-interest.  In short: in the light of the inherently politically divisive character of the one entity holding us-stroke-the U.S. together, we should not be altogether surprised by the irruption of a genuinely vexatious lesion of Texit or NExit into the American body politic.  For my part, as a lifetime resident of the Eastern Seaboard and virtual adulttime resident of the so-called I-95 (and, more recently, Acela) corridor, I can’t imagine lifting a finger, let alone both a(*)**(e)-cheeks, to stop Texas from saying sayonara (or its equivalent in Tejano Spanish [perchance Adios, y’all?]) to the Union, much less to prevent Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, etc. or et al. from jettisoning their collective fiscal, military, and judiciary obligations to the raffishly parvenu likes of Wyoming, Hawaii, California, and the Dakotas.

Now, as for the relevance to Russia of all this from the last mention (barring the one in this paragraph) of “all this” onwards, it consists in the following: that such an EU-like scenario of disintegration through voluntary mutual disaggregation, however improbable it may be in the United States’ present case, is more than figuratively impossible in Russia’s present case.  It is impossible in Russia’s present case because it has already happened to Russia, and indeed happened to it (or her [for Russia is after all a self-styled mother]) more than a quarter-of-a-century ago, when the U.S.S.R. ceased to exist and both Russia itself and the non-Russian Soviet republics ceased to participate in a larger polity.  Indeed, perhaps uniquely among the former-great powers of the long twentieth century (i.e., the twentieth century proper, spanning the years 1901 through 2000, in contrast to the historians’ short twentieth century, spanning the years 1918 [by which year Russia had ceased to exist as an independent polity on account of its absorption into the U.S.S.R ] and 1989 [a year whose historical significance need not be recapitulated]) Russia now enjoys the privilege attributed to the dead by Lemmy Caution in Alphaville (and presumably by some classical [and more specifically pre-Socratic] author or thinker with whom Jack L. Godard was [and perhaps still is] better acquainted than I am): it cannot die.  To be sure, even in the present long-post-Soviet microepoch there are still quasi-nationalities (or for all I know actual or authentic nationalities [after all, one doesn’t want to make enemies gratuitously]) living under the Russian political umbrella who long to break free of that umbrella and shelter (for what such shelter is worth) under a smaller political umbrella of their own.  I suppose the Chechens and the Tatars (a.k.a. Tartars, an alternative nation-label that I really think they should plump for in the light of the popularity of the sauce of the same name [minus the ess] in the hyperoccident, as attested to by its yeoman service as a condiment applied by default to each and every last McDonald’s Filet o’Fish sandwich ever compiled) are the demographically largest such collectivities; at any rate, they are the only such collectivities who spring to my mind by name at the moment.  But at their utmost geographically desiderated compasses the dominions pined for by these conceivably authentic nationalities are positively dust-mited by the chunks of land ceded by the Russian S.F.S.R. upon the dissolution of the U.S.S.R; such that even if each and every one of these collectivities acquired a nation-state-territory of its own carved out of the quasi-living flesh of the present Russian polity, Russia would still be the biggest darned country in the world by many a long chalk.  Complementarily, and as mentioned before, in many of the non-Russian former Soviet territories there are so-called enclaves of so-called ethnic Russians who at least intermittently affect to feel aggrieved that the burglet, village, or potato-field they live in or on is not officially a part of Mother Russia, that it has, so to speak, been assigned to the belly of the wrong matryoshka, to a Ukrainian, Byelorussian, Estonian autc. nesting-doll rather than a Russian one.  And yet even if each and every one of these burglets, villages, and potato-fields were assimilated to Mother Russia, that mother’s girth would not be visibly increased sub specie satellites; Russia would indeed consequently be an even larger country, and consequently outstrip the rest of the world’s countries in terms of landmass more than it presently does, but not by so much as a single nub of a single short chalk.  Admittedly if the Asiatic portion of Russia really started feeling its geographical oats and took it into its highly oblate head to secede from the republic and start up an entirely new polity called, say, Pansiberiana, and stretching from Novosibirsk to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, then it would be the largest country in the world, leaving the consequently engendered rump Russia just ahead or behind Brazil at the fifth or sixth-largest (I confess I can’t be back-bottomed to do the maths), but such a secession is scarcely imaginable for the perhaps utterly infantile but nevertheless highly efficacious reason that from their very foundations all the urban and semi-urban centers of this massive mass of steppe and tundra have been inhabited effectively exclusively by people who called and call themselves Russians and were and are native speakers of the Russian language.  I guess what I’m saying in the immediate here may be divided into two gentle adjurations, one addressed to Russia and the other to the hyperoccident: I would ever-so-gently adjure Russia to relax a bit and stop giving both the various internal separatist collectivities so much of a hard time and the various external Russian integrationist collectivities so much encouragement; and I would no less (or more) gently adjure the hyperoccident to give Russia at least a modicum of its due as a geographically incredibly large and demographically quite respectably substantial political entity that, in contrast to most of the political entities within the hyperoccident, has managed to accomplish the well-nigh-miraculous geopolitical feat of remaining a polity unto itself neither beholden to any larger polity nor readily analyzable into any congeries of self-sustaining sub-polities.  I realize of course that such an adjuration is almost certain to go unheeded by either party in the present geopolitical climate, a climate in which Russia feels itself (excuse me: herself) obliged, in words mostly originally written for Chico Marx by S.J. Perelman, to play for French-fried potatoes as if they were large steaks, in other words to treat the insurgencies on either side of her border as matters of existentially determinant import because the hyperoccident cannot be awed by mere ontological integrity-cum-perdurance, and because, moreover, she knows that she cannot hope ever to compete with the hyperoccident on the only non-military front on which it will unreservedly salute success–viz. a certain version of international commercial activity.

In mentioning this version of international commercial activity I am of course segueing to the illustration of Item No. 2 in my catalogue of assertions (which in hindsight [sorry to shatter the illusion that I composed this entire essay at a single mental-cum-temporal moment à la the painting of the Mona Lisa as described by Steve Martin] I am inclined to think I should rather have styled theses on account of that word’s instant evocation of a pair of persons who are perhaps preeminently pertinent at present, namely, Martin Luther and Karl Marx), specifically to the bit at the end about “a bastardized version of a system of political economy that has always been legitimately contestable and that by now has proved downright untenable.”  I don’t suppose any ailurophobes will be alarmed in the slightest by my specifying that the system of political economy I had and have in mind is the one most generally known as capitalism, but I also suppose few ailurophiles will be much heartened by the specification because it tells us nothing about what is defective in Russia’s political-economic practice from the hyperoccident (a.k.a. so-called West)’s point of view, inasmuch as this practice is itself almost impossible to define except as a form or version of capitalism, or at any rate as a form or version of a political-economic system that is emphatically not anti-capitalist.  To be sure, in the Soviet days Russia’s political-economic practice was definable as a form or version of a political-economic system that was emphatically anti-capitalist, a system that styled itself communism (or more typically and bumptiously Communism), and that did indeed comport itself in ways that were difficult indeed to confuse with those most signally cultivated and flaunted by the capitalism of its day.  Under Communism (I use the preposition under under—or rather, in cooperation with—protest, as its ineluctable implication of subjection stacks the cards against the poor Commies from the outset) every Russian citizen was an employee or some other kind of dependent of the Soviet State, whether his or her daily routine centered on teaching kindergarten or arguing cases in court or screwing in widgets onto bits of machinery or sitting in a prison cell or going down to the local drugstore (or GUM) to sell flair pens (another Steve Martin reference, natch) or their nearest analogue right of the Wall (interesting how geography often confounds the usual spatially grounded political metaphors, no?).   Complementarily, under Communism every Russian was at least quasi-officially (for there was after all a thriving so-called black market whose existence Soviet officialdom seemed to be at no great pains to deny [more on this at a more seasonable moment], let alone negate, whence the quasi) a dedicated and exclusive consumer of goods and services produced and proffered by the Soviet State; such that if he or she wanted a suit of clothes or a car or a cup of tea or a glass of beer or (for all I know, as I have been given to understand that prostitution has always been legal in all polities barring the extra-Nevadan United States), a b**w j*b, he or she would almost always perforce repair to a State-owned department store (perchance one of the aforementioned GUMs) or car dealership or tearoom or juke joint or hooker/rent-boy.  This is not—and was not—to say that all such commodities were pedaled and flaunted under the imprint of a single brand—say, a friendly, grinning Balloo-like hammer-and-sickle wielding cartoon bear, or a winking-cum-beaming cartoon V.I. Lenin instantly identifiable by his bum-fluff moustache-cum-chin whiskers and peaked newsboy’s cap—stamped (or tattooed) onto a given piece of merchandise’s most conspicuous patch of plastic, steel, or skin.  In the domain of cinema, for example, the Soviet consumer economy was at times perhaps even more diversified than its Stateside counterpart, with an artistically ambitious Lenfilm movie being no more mistakable for a crowd-pleasing Mosfilm flick or a Gorkyfilm period classic adaptation than a Universal monster mash for an R.K.O. gumshoe opera or a 20th-Century Fox “issue” film.  But it is hard to know now (and not only in the hyperoccident but perhaps even in Russia, where most quotidiana of Soviet life are perhaps unascertainable even by those who had attained the age of discretion by 1991 [for after all, the present writer would be hard-pressed indeed to quote the price of a cinema ticket in 1991, or to specify how he went about punching in his hours at the supermarket where he then worked]) how visible the glum, dusky features of the sole, ultimate buck-stopping paymaster—i.e., Comrade Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev autc.—were beneath the various brightly parti-colored brand icons spray-stenciled atop them.  At the very least, the Soviet-period Russians would have recognized these brands as home-grown (or -drafted, or whatever other past-participle best describes the mode whereby brands are generated) and distinctively Soviet, in stark contrast to, inter alia, the Marlboro, Levi-Strauss, and Ronco brands they would have encountered only in officially unsanctioned settings, or whenever a product bearing such a brand was included in an officially sanctioned photograph or movie by mistake or deliberate the-other-way-looking (q.v., at the above-mentioned more seasonable moment).  Flash forward twenty-seven or more years, and however closely the producer side of the Russian economy may resemble its Soviet predecessor (and I shall try to establish the extent of this closely presently), on the consumer side that economy is virtually indistinguishable from its hyperoccidental counterparts.  The flagship GUM in Moscow’s Red Square has been converted into an upscale shopping mall housing retail outlets of such nauseatingly hyperoccidental chains as Armani, Samsonite, and Hugo Boss.  And if to my assertion of the salience, and indeed revolutionariness, of this transformation it be objected that the overwhelming majority of Russians—a.k.a. Vanya and Masha Stolichnaya—are too fetidly poor to avail themselves of any of the myriad-to-the-g*****lth power brand-choices paraded before their terminally purchase-starved eyes, that they have to make do with tatty own-brand handbags, blue jeans, sunglasses, etc. from the Russian equivalent of Walmart (which may, for aught I know, actually be Walmart) I say to the objector, Let Vanya and Masha join the fetid club of which the present writer along with Jean et Suzette Courvoisier, Hans und Greta Bährenjäger, José y Maria Rioja (or José y Maria José Cuervo [yes, the reduplication of the J-name is a bit awkward]) et al. have been involuntary and begrudging members since no more recently than ca. 1990.  For brand-name proliferation without consumer-power expansion has in fact been the norm in the hyperoccident for more than a generation or quarter-century.  And whatever the so-called media of whatever self-styled political persuasion may have us believe (for in wishing to have us believe this, Breitbart and Fox News join hands with Pacifica and the Guardian), the experience of one’s own material utter irrelevance to the most high-profile brands in the consumer side of one’s domestic economy is by no means confined to those who “refer to fifth grade as my senior year” (J. Foxworthy, natch) and whose Saturday-night calendars alternate between hot dates with their respective kid siblings and quite literal rolls in the hay with the choicest porkers in their respective pig-seraglios.  For proof of the verity of this admittedly scandalous assertion one need look no further (or farther) than the case of the present writer.  The present writer is a college graduate with a master’s degree conferred by a supposedly (i.e., universally reputedly) elite university.  The present writer possesses a well-nigh-infallibly accurate command of irregular past participles.  The present writer even enjoys an annual income only two or three percentage points below the national average (although admittedly eight or nine points below the average of the state in which he resides [Worthington’s law naturally and infallibly dictates that five of my six remaining empirical readers will have turned away with handkerchiefs clutched to their nostrils at this revelation]).  And yet whenever the present writer is compelled to visit any mid-to-upmarket subdivided shopping emporium in the United States—whether the Galleria in downtown Baltimore or CityCenterDC in downtown Washington or the International Mall in midtown Tampa—he is confronted on all sides by articles of merchandise whose purchase(s) is or are stratospherically beyond his means—meaning, I suppose, that if each week he purchased just one such article chosen entirely at random he would be bankrupt within a few months.  Not that he is particularly resentful of the inaccessibility of these commodities; to the contrary, on the whole while sashaying or flouncing past them he is inclined to ejaculate, “How full the world is of things that I do not want!” like Socrates at the Athenian agora on a market day (not to be confused with Diogenes ejaculating in a different sense at the same site).  He is, however, particularly and indeed rabidly resentful of received hyperoccidental opinion’s laughably outmoded contention that in the second decade of the twenty-first century the hyperoccident, in contrast to Russia, remains a place or consumer zone awash in brand-name luxury goods that all but the poorest of its population may acquire without availing themselves of the so-called five-finger discount, a place or consumer zone in which an office secretary can still be “soigné and chic on forty-five [or seven hundred to a thousand in today’s dollars] a week” as Ogden Nash put it in the early-to-mid-twentieth century.  For the overwhelming minority-to-faintly whelming majority of old-school hyperoccidental commodity-gourmandizers, the hyperoccident is in point of fact, and like Russia, a vast commercial desert chock-full of tantalizingly life-like mirages and utterly bereft of genuine oases.  To be presumably sure, in Russia the proportion of the population with purchasing access to high-ticket name-brand items is probably slightly smaller than in the richest and most economically energetic hyperoccidental countries, the countries that still deserve to be considered first-world (if that term still enjoys any currency) by one or more standard economic standards [e.g., unemployment rate, inflation rate, medium-term rate of growth of GDP, and productivity-level of labor force], i.e. (not e.g. [and note how short the list is!]), the U.S., the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, New Zealand, Austria, the Scandinavian countries (including Iceland), and Australia; but it is also probably slightly larger than in the most economically sluggish hyperoccidental countries—e.g. (not i.e., because in the light of Worthington’s Law one feels a bit of a jerk naming any but the most notorious member of this club, a polity which unlike most of the others was hardly a poster child for so-called free enterprise even at the acme of its post-WWII heyday), Greece.  In other words, in broad terms, the situation of the average consumer is pretty nearly uniformly wretched throughout the hyperoccident-plus-Russia; the hyperoccident has absolutely nothing to be smug about qua exponent, champion, or embodiment of a political-economic system catering munificently and efficiently to the will of the consumers of its respective polities; and the median income-earning American residing in a Stalin (or, if you insist, Truman)-period mid-rise in the South Oakenshawe neighborhood of Baltimore is essentially in the same cramped, bilge-inundated boat as the median income-earning Russian residing in a Stalin-period mid-rise in the Vyborg district of Moscow; which is to say, he spends the bulk of his income on non-negotiable quasi-necessities like rent and utilities and has precious little left over to lay out on the gewgaws, gadgets, and fripperies that received opinion in the hyperoccident fatuously regards as our pseudo-civilization’s greatest triumphs, and indeed as sufficient reasons for being happier to be alive now than at any preceding moment in human history.  How received opinion—by which I mean what virtually everybody in a given population, and not merely some influential fraction or faction thereof, believes to be true—in the hyperoccident could take such possessive pride in a congeries of gewgaws, gadgets, and fripperies legally inaccessible to nearly half-to-almost all of its receivers, is a subject not for a separate essay, or even a separate module or section of the present essay, but indeed for a separate sub-module or sub-section of the present essay, the one in which I shall devote all my discursive energies to tearing (or attempting to tear) the hyperoccident not only a proverbial second but also a proverbial third waste-disposal chute on the score of its entire officially espoused system of political economy.  For the nonce, i.e., the present sub-module or sub-section, I am trying to seal up, to cauterize, the second and third proverbial waste-disposal chutes that hyperoccidental received opinion has with bumptious ruthlessness carved out of the living abdominal tissue of the Russian system of political economy.  (The extent of Russian officialdom’s espousal or even comprehension of this system is difficult or perhaps even impossible to ascertain, but in my view this lends it a certain irresistibly naïve charm that the hyperoccident’s system has lacked since whatever day in 1775 or 1776 Adam Smith handed the final set of galleys of The Wealth of Nations to his printer.)  I believe I have already cauterized one of these factitious wounds, the one on the consumer side, serviceably enough by demonstrating that the present-day Russian consumerist landscape is far closer to the consumerist landscapes of hyperoccidental polities than to that of Russia in the Soviet period.  Unfortunately, the cauterization of this wound as an isolated pathological phenomenon is no guarantee against its eventual suppuration and indeed terminal gangrenization because, at least as bourgeois-economic superstition insists on having us believe, consumption is at least strongly dependent and perhaps even prevailingly parasitic upon production, such that this consumer-side wound is always frighteningly vulnerable to contamination by the producer-side wound (I leave the out-working of the details of the conceit to the professional gastroenterologists and proctologists among my readership), and it is a much bigger ask to cauterize that wound than it was to cauterize the consumer-side one; in other words, to demonstrate that Russia as an economic locus of production is substantially different than it was in the Soviet period.  For it is said by people who are said to know something about this (and I have no choice but to cite these people as infallible authorities, for the scene of production is ineluctably [albeit perhaps wholly contingently] much more occult, much more hidden from view, than the scene of consumption) that on the side of production the present-day Russian economy is prevailingly and/or essentially a two-commodity economy, an economy that sustains itself mostly or perhaps even effectively solely on exports of petroleum and natural gas, an economy wherein, moreover, the possession, refinement, and distribution of these two mainstay resources is contentiously shared between the Russian State (quasi-i.e., Mr. Putin and his rich bosom cronies) and a kuchka or handful of wealthy individual Russian citizens (the so-called oligarchs; quasi-i.e., the rich non-cronies of Mr. Putin), such that it is not entirely implausible to argue that on the side of production the Russian economy is not even superficially very different from its predecessor in the Soviet period.  To be sure, the exponents of this not entirely implausible argument maintain, State control of the mainstay industries is no longer as in Soviet days an attribute of official policy, such that in the unlikely but not inconceivable event that one or more of the privately owned oil or natural gas companies became geometrically more profitable than its largest State-owned rival, one would no longer be within one’s rights to describe Russia even as a partial de-facto site of State capitalism (otherwise known dirigisme).  But even in such an event (so these exponents expound), most of the worst, the most undesirable, characteristics of a Soviet-style State-run producer-side economy would still be in place, because control of the mainstay-resource possession, refinement, and distribution would remain in the hands of a very few individuals—because, in other words, there would be very little competitive diversity on that side.  This argument strikes me as quite a specious one in the old, only half-pejorative Johnsonian sense—by which I mean that it has a great deal to recommend it at least on the surface, a surface that may amount to a serviceable enough succedaneum for depth, just as a lake that is merely frozen in its top x inches is sometimes (if not even often, let alone always) as serviceable for skating as one that is frozen to its very bottom.  I concede that in certain productive settings, competitive diversity is a good thing and indeed a much better thing than uncompetitive homogeneity.  Certainly in the early stages of a given commodity’s heyday, which is to say the period wherein even its most state-of-the-art manifestations are manifestly short of technical perfection, it is best for there to be a large number of producers working in knowing competition with one another to design, manufacture, and distribute the best version of that commodity.  Thus in the early days of the automobile it was undoubtedly a good thing that Messrs. Stanley, Benz, Ford, et al. were each and all trying to design, manufacture, and distribute the best version of the automobile.  If only one of them had been at work on that project, we (or rather you all, as I do not own a motor car and am not even licensed to drive one) would probably still be puttering about in individually crafted (and therefore phenomenally expensive) steam-driven cars (which on balance would probably be a very good thing as far as a car-hater such as the present writer is concerned, but for the present sub-argument’s sake [and only for its sake, as will become clear much later in the essay] I am writing from the point of view of an automobilophile).  But the desirability of a large number of mutually competing producers of any well-established and settled commodity, a commodity in whose design and construction only marginal improvements are capable of being made, is highly debatable at best.  The present state of the automobile industry is a case in illustration of this at-best high debatability: at present there cannot be many more than ten car-manufacturing companies that are not subsidiaries of larger car-manufacturing companies, and I can perceive neither much intrinsic value in increasing their number nor any evidence whatsoever of lobbying or agitation in favor of such an increase by any political constituency or so-called interest group.
To be sure, in the present race to build a reliable and affordable driverless car, there is presumably a great deal of competition among dozens or hundreds of firms of which we have yet to hear (alongside the one huge firm of which we have heard more than quite enough), and a handful or two of which are doubtless destined to become the Chrysler, Ford, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz etc. or et al. of the driverless car industry.  But as for the old-school driver-operated car industry, because people have essentially accepted that a driver-operated car is never going to move comfortably or legally faster than 80 miles per hour and that it never even ought to cost much less than a half a year’s wages (because they are fundamentally unregenerate masochists [q.v. below, Lord willing]), they are content with choosing from the offerings of a mere half-dozen firms.  There is no need for a hundred models of luxury cars to choose from when the known price tag of a Rolls Royce or a Bentley alone certifies that you are several times as rich as a person who can only afford a Jaguar, BMW, or Mercedes—and so on down a conspicuous-consumption ladder comprising no more than ten rungs and occupied even at its bottom rung by no more than a half-dozen car-models.  And in industries where there is no prestige whatsoever to be derived from choosing one version of its appropriated commodity rather than another, the utility of competition diminishes virtually to zero.  The oil and natural gas industries are obviously loca classica of such industries.  While there may be a minuscule modicum of traditional conspicuous-consumerist cachet to be garnered from choosing premium rather than regular gasoline-stroke-petrol, no driver prides himself or herself on being a Shell man or woman rather than a BP or Exxon one, except perhaps as a function of his or her views of the company’s record of relative environmental friendliness.  And as for natural gas—well, here in the United States, the alleged foremost bastion of no-holds-barred free enterprise, the public’s lack of interest in competitive offerings of this commodity eventually and anciently (i.e., well over a hundred years ago) reached such a near-absolute-zero point of lassitude that virtually (or perhaps even actually) every last serviced population in the land (i.e., the then at-most 48 contiguous states) cheerfully allowed its local private natural gas supplier (often or perhaps even usually also its supplier of electricity) to operate as a monopoly, i.e., as a company operating in the complete and utter absence of competition from other firms.  And for perhaps as long as slightly over a hundred years, nary an American soul affected to voice the smallest soupçon of dissatisfaction with this commercial arrangement.  Then, round about the turn of the millennium, some Whiggish dickhead (or dickish Whighead) or other got the asinine idea of legislating consumer choice in the matter of basic utilities and thereby precipitated nothing of greater interest or appeal to Bob and Suzy Focckuck (i.e., the average American natural gas consumers) than a torrent of bulk paper mail into their U.S. Postal Service (q.v.)-ial mailboxes and a horde of incredibly uncivil door-to-door teenage sales-pitchers onto their front doorsteps.  After getting on for two decades of this utterly unwelcome and obtrusive Whiggish rain-dance, I have yet to hear, let alone make the acquaintance, of a fellow-Baltimorean who has switched over from the former monopoly holder, Baltimore Gas and Electric, to any of its newly chartered competitors.  And assuming my own desire-mechanism as a consumer is not radically different from that of my fellow Baltimoreans, I conclude that the reason they have not bothered switching over is that their electric-cum-gas bills have not risen very much at all or ever very sharply over the 17-odd years since the introduction of competition into the electricity-cum-natural gas market, and as long as one is not expected to pay substantially more for something this month (or whatever else the billing interval is—although in the case of continuously supplied goods or services it is rarely anything other than a month) than one was paying for it last month, one is not going to bother seeking out an alternative provider of that something–this on the seldom-falsified assumption that the amount of time one would have to spend looking for a more competitive vendor (or hearing out the sales pitch of one of its incredibly uncivil teenage sales representatives) would not be repaid by the savings netted by the switch to that vendor (and I mean repaid in the coarsest yet most precise pecuniary sense: one infers that the alternative vendor would save one, say, $200.00 over the course of five years and thereby concludes that $3.33-1/3 per month is not too hefty a price to pay for never again being obliged to think about that vendor).  To be sure, if electricity or natural gas ever became sexy again (for nothing could have been sexier than electricity in its ca. 1890 heyday or natural gas in its 1830 one), prices of the newly resexified commodity would indeed spike and vacillate widely from vendor to vendor, and Americans would find it worthwhile to shop around for alternative electricity or natural gas vendors, as they very recently still did in search of alternative broadband mobile phone interweb coverage (the jargon is bound to be imprecise when echoed by a mobile phone non-owner such as the present writer).  But failing (not that I have any desire for such a catastrophe to succeed) a genuine energy crisis (i.e., one precipitated by an ineluctable natural shortage rather than the ever-eluctable pipeline-squeezing shenanigans of a human supplier), neither electricity nor natural gas nor petroleum will ever be sexy again, and so no consumer of any of these commodities is ever going to yearn in good faith for access to a more competitive market in any of them.  At the same time, of course, the terminal utter unsexiness of electricity, natural gas, and oil has by no means either emanated from or led to their becoming superfluous, let alone worthless; to the contrary, each and every representative national couple in the world or on the globe undoubtedly needs (in a relative sense, of course) these commodities much more exigently than its or their ancestors ever did at these commodities’ aforementioned apices of sexiness (admittedly I did leave out petroleum, so let me date its apex of sexiness now, viz. to 1924, as that was the year in which the greatest number of Ford Model T cars, the most popular cars [and hence the most popular gas-guzzling entities] ever, was or were manufactured), and so any person, corporation, or other entity with large stores of any of these commodities, these natural or quasi-natural resources (TBS, stores of electricity are usually factorable down to more basal natural resources like natural gas, oil, coal, and radioactive metals) and control of their refinement autc. and distribution is sitting pretty pretty for the nonce.  To be sure, the god-awful tree-huggers are desperately fain to get Bob and Suzy Focckuck, Vanya and Masha Stolichnaya, Hans und Greta Bährenjäger, et al. to light and heat their so-called homes exclusively with their own fecal excrement, nasal mucus, and seminal and vaginal discharge; and they are also gunger-ho than a 1986 Michael Keaton-starring Ron Howard movie to get Bob, Suzy, Vanya, et al. to ditch their motorcars and propel their own malodorous carcasses to work, school, church, tanning salon, and back aback purely acoustic bicycles every day; and for aught any of us know these god-awful tree-huggers may ultimately succeed, and if they ever do, the suppliers of the classic heating, cooling, lighting, and propelling commodities will indeed no longer be sitting pretty, at least not qua suppliers of such commodities.  But not even the tree-huggers’ most enthusiastic boosters—viz. Bob and Suzy Religious Bottle Recyclers-cum-Hybrid Compact Car Owners-cum-Triannual Intercontinental Airline Pleasure Voyage-Takers—to say nothing of their detractors (i.e., basically, everybody who hopes the driverless car really takes off often in two or more senses [and just imagine what a godsend to some sort of natural resource-hawker a flight-capable driverless car would almost ineluctably turn out to be]) believe that they will succeed in the next half-century, that personal-environmental autocoprophagia and acoustic bicycling will become normative rather than exceptional modi vivendi, and such being the case, Russia as a mass of biologically living people can look forward to a future that will never dim.  This of course is not to say that prosperity for the Havana-puffing oligarchs and grand state functionaries, the tolstiye koti, in charge of the petroleum and natural gas producing firms has ever necessarily spelled or ever will necessarily spell prosperity for their shop-floor employees, Vanya and Masha Stolichnaya, but merely that the failure of such prosperity can never be attributed to the noncompetitive structure of the Russian petroleum and natural gas industries eo ipso.  There are in point of fact neither solid a priori nor solid a posteriori grounds for regarding the remunerativeness of the wages of the shop-floor employees of a given industry as being directly proportional to the number of mutually competing productive organizations involved in that industry.  Indeed, it is manifestly clear that caeteris paribus a competitive production-market in a given industry tends to drive down the wages of its shop-floor employees, inasmuch as a firm with many competitors is under constant pressure to reduce its production costs in order to sell its products at the lowest profitable price, and labor is almost invariably the most costly of production costs.  To sum up my appraisal of the productive side of the present Russian economy: there would appear to be nothing about its fundamental structure that is intrinsically inimical to the welfare of the Russian citizenry.  Natural gas and petroleum are among the most highly coveted commodities in the present and foreseeably prospective geoeconomy, and Russia possesses both of them in abundance.  Such being the case, there is evidently nothing but a lack of political will—the will, in other words, on the part of the oligarchs and grand functionaries to let the great mass of Russians in on a greater share of the wealth inexorably accruing from the sale of petroleum or natural gas, either via an industry-wide wage hike or via a kind of universal annual allowance on the Alaskan model—to prevent Vanya and Masha Stolichnaya qua economic quanta from standing toe-to-toe and brow-to-brow with the average native married couple in Switzerland (I regret that the linguistic heterogeneity of Switzerland, acting in concert with my complete ignorance of Swiss wine, beer, and spirits, precludes my coming up with the requisite complementary national couple), the national polity undoubtedly most celebrated and notorious for lavishly looking after each and every one of its own at the greatest exactable expense to the rest of the world.  To be sure, even if the profits of the Russian petroleum and natural gas industries were evenly shared amongst the Russian citizenry as a matter of policy, there would still be extrinsic threats to the well-being of that citizenry, because the Russian petroleum and natural gas industries would continue to face competition from these industries in other parts of the world—notably, the Middle East and the Americas.  But there is nothing intrinsic to the Russian petroleum and natural gas industries to preclude their holding their own in an international market, nothing to preclude their keeping up with, say, the United States, Saudi Arabia, or Venezuela in terms of either productivity or affordability.  The only material obstacles to Russia’s prosperity as a net natural resource-exporter are of a political—and hence at least conceivably removable—nature.  Now that so-called fracking has made the United States a net exporter of natural gas, the Germans are much less inclined to buy natural gas from the Russians, but this is not in the main because American natural gas is cheaper (if it even is) but because the American gas is being supplied by the Americans, whom the Germans regard as an ally, rather than by the Russians, whom they do not.  If by what doubtless would seem to everyone but the present writer to be some miraculous turn of the geopolitical tide Germany came to trust Russia as quasi-implicitly as it now trusts the United States, it would have no disincentive whatsoever to importing all its natural gas from Russia and a very powerful disincentive to importing it from the United States in the U.S.’s much greater geographical alienation from Germany than Russia, as expressed both by pure distance and by the lack of a continuous stretch of dry land between the two countries.  (If there is a single humane principle I wish to inculcate in this essay—and the present exemplum of Germany and Russia qua commercial trading partners is but the first and least trenchant one whereby I hope to inculcate this principle before my peroration—it is that physical-geographical propinquity and contiguity ultimately matter every bit as much in the twenty-first century as they did in any earlier age.)    

But received hyperoccidental political-economic opinion seems to hold that there is something intrinsically and ineluctably evil about the productive side of the Russian economy’s centeredness on natural resources eo ipso, such that even if each and every one of Russia’s petroleum and natural gas-producing firms adopted a policy of absolutely impartial and uniformly egalitarian profit-sharing and even if all political obstacles to Russia’s frictionless, fully competitive participation in the world petroleum and natural gas markets were removed, Russia would still be a geoeconomic miscreant or a geoeconomic infant—or perhaps a combination of both; say, a geoeconomic street urchin; in other words a country that was still refusing to play by the rules and refusing to grow up, to behave like a decent, law-abiding, prudent, potty-trained, enlightened geoeconomic adult.  And in what does the behavior of such a decent, law-abiding, prudent, potty-trained, enlightened geo-political adult consist, according to received hyperoccidental geoeconomic opinion?  To my mind the pithiest and most compendious answer to this question—pithiest and most compendious, that is, in its conveyance not only of the desiderata of geoeconomic adulthood themselves but also of the nauseatingly smugly didactic attitude in which they are characteristically stipulated—was provided just over four years ago on NPR’s All Things Considered by some American foreign policy wonkess with some sort of professional accreditation in something having to do with Russia who censoriously remarked (quasi-apropos of the just-consummated annexation of Crimea, unless that annexation had not just then been consummated, in which case her remark was quasi-apropos of the generally fractious state of relations between Russia and Ukraine [in either case the apropos-ness was merely quasi, inasmuch as the Russo-Ukrainian conflict is not at all about economics as hyperoccidental received opinion now understands it {even if that conflict is very much about economics in a more basal sense ignored by hyperoccidental received opinion}, as I hope I shall get round persuasively to arguing]) something to the effect of [if somebody will only give me my own wonk’s chair, “air-conditioned cell at Kennedy,” and upper-mid-six-figure annual emolument, I shall be only too happy to hire a fact-checker!!!]: “Russia needs to develop an economy that’s centered on making things that other countries want to buy.”  The emphasis here is manifestly on the madeness and the thingliness of the things rather than on their cravedness by foreign buyers, as indeed it needs must be in the light of the secure international high-ticketed-ness of petroleum and natural gas, which I have already pointed out and which cannot have been or be unknown even to the most troglodytically benighted foreign policy wonkess.  On or by this account, the Russians are childish and evil because they make their collective living by simply selling amorphous uncountable stuff that they happen already to have sitting around on or beneath their turf, and their only hope of being grown up and good lies in shaping this amorphous uncountable stuff and other kinds of amorphous uncountable stuff on or beneath their turf into previously nonexistent, discrete, countable things; it lies, in other words, in their collectively transforming themselves into a polity-cum-economy prevailingly devoted to what I cannot seem to avoid calling (for there are few if any things that I would more eagerly avoid doing than typing or uttering the most soporific and at the same time most inflammatory of em-words) manufacturing.  This implied prescription needs must pose something of a poser (qua conundrum not qua 1980s subcultural bugbear) to any would-be talent agent of the hyperoccident keen on saving his or her client from being cast in the role of the kettle-denigrating pot in some sort of Toy Story-style kitchen pantomime, for as every hyperoccidental schoolchild knows or ought to know, it has been well over a full half-century since any hyperoccidental nation-state (with the possible admittedly unmarginal exception of Germany) has signalized itself as a geoeconomic player via the manufacturing sub-sector of the productive sector of its economy; and indeed in the hyperoccident’s flagship polity, the United States (which of course also happens to be our wonkess’s home base and probable [to judge by her accent] native land), the moribundity of domestic manufacturing has been taken for granted for so long that by now it is virtually a module of the national folklore curriculum like the Great Awakening or the Closing of the Frontier or the Birth of Jazz.  If the (non-DG)R presumes I exaggerate, let him or her only consider the antiquity of the epithet the Rust Belt as a collective term for the former urban industrial American northeast.  The coinage of the epithet dates from no later than the early 1960s, hence well over a half-century ago.  Jump another half-century-and-change back into the past and you are in the 1890s, when most of the big industries in the region were just getting into gear and some of them—notably the automobile industry—had yet even to be founded; when, in short, whatever sort of unrusted metal belt the region comprised before it started rusting did not yet even fully exist.  In short the Rust Belt has been the Rust Belt substantially longer it ever was the Unrusted Belt, such that the very term Rust Belt now has a palpably absurd ring to it in the ears of anybody who has reflected on the chronology; such a person inevitably yearns for the region to be rechristened after whatever rust turns into once it has crumbled away, or what the non-rusted remnant of metal left behind after the crumblage is called, but alas!—he or she lacks the requisite metallurgical vocabulary.  Calling Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, etc. “Rust Belt cities” is every bit as preposterous as calling the present historical moment “the postwar period,” inasmuch as the Belt started Rusting more or less exactly when the Second World War finished ending.  But hey, unlike “the postwar period,” “the Rust Belt” generates revenues in the coffers of municipal governments, who will seemingly be able to get away with carping dunningly to Uncle Sam about the economic hardship our town has suffered since Biblical City Aleph Steel shut down its operations here until a team of Biblical archaeologists will be needed even to make it clear to Uncle Sam what sort of entity Biblical City Aleph Steel was, and who am I to demand the amputation of one of the most grossly distended udders of these governments’ communal cash cow?  Obviously not any non-bovine creature, but I am very much of a non-bovine creature to beg these municipal governments of the erroneously called Rust Belt to parley with Uncle Sam in slightly more hushed tones, inasmuch as the sheer decibelular amplitude of their sales pitch seems to be misleading many an American (and by no means only an unregenerately historically uninformed one) into supposing that the demise of the Rust Belt began a mere six rather than a full sixty years ago and thence to supposing that manufacturing is still the normal order of the day chez the productive side of the U.S. economy.  Such I am at least residually inclined to gather from the smug lording over the Russian economy indulged in by our wonkess, although I am probably prevailingly inclined to gather therefrom that she was mistaking an unflagging profusion of new names chez the productive side of the U.S. economy for an unflagging profusion of new things thereat—a misprision of the true lie of the economic land which, inasmuch as in the words of Edward Gibbon mankind is governed by names, would certainly be enough to conjure up the mirage of a vital, thriving manufacturing economy in the mind of any wonk or wonkess of any but the highest genius and most ruthless intellectual self-command.  Now what do I mean by a profusion of names chez nous Americains?  I mean by this nothing more occult or mysterious than the large number of proprietary names that did not exist at all, or were visible only in small subnational or subcultural pockets, as recently as the turn of the millennium—names like N****x, A*****n, F****k, U**r,  and the butcher’s-dozen I-prefixed products bearing the logo of the A***e corporation (whose most lucrative strand of cunning [I wouldn’t dream of calling it inventiveness, let alone genius] has probably been its periodic refreshing of the master-name of its product line, from A***e itself to M******sh in the mid-1980s, and from M******sh to I-this and that in the mid-20oughties).  Some of these parvenu proprietary names are indeed affixed to manufactured products: such is patently the case with the I-P*d, I P*d [sic on the repetition, though I daren’t expect any reader to have a memory retentive and extensive enough (i.e., to call to mind consumer fads of more than five years’ antiquity) to understand why], I-P***e, etc.  But it is no secret that few to none of these products is or are manufactured in any State or territory of the United States, that virtually each and every one of them is assembled in China (or, as Chinese labor becomes increasingly costly, in more commercially marginal Asian countries like Vietnam) out of materials hailing from places less heavily trodden by hyperoccidental feet than even the proverbial-if-actual Timbuktu and more celebrated-if-mythical B*mf**k, Egypt.  To be sure, the corporate headquarters of the most illustrious (or notorious) of the proprietors of the proprietary names affixed to these products are sited in the United States, but it is difficult to ascertain to what extent, if any, these nominal geographical presences signalize or mandate an inflow of domestic revenues.  If, for example, one orders an I-P***e online directly from A***e, what are the chances that the I-P***e one eventually receives was stored in a warehouse in Bowling Green, Kentucky rather than in one in Ya’an, Sichuan and consequently contributed its hyper-minuscule share of property taxes to the treasury of Warren County rather than to that of Ya’an Prefecture and was packaged by a pair (or trio autc.) of Kentuckyian wage-earning hands rather than a pair (or trio autc.) of Sichuan(i) ones?  Having never ordered a single I-anything from A***e I honestly cannot say.  I can honestly say that on most if not all occasions on which I have ordered something directly from A****n (as against one of its so-called partners, many of whom have turned out to be based in Timbuktu-stroke-BFE-esque places), the almost-(although-admittedly-not-always)-invariably-foreign-made ordered commodity or bundle of commodities has been conveyed to me from some location within the United States—and more than often enough some heartlandish, or peri-heartlandish locale like Bowling Green, Kentucky.  So to the extent that at least the United States’(s) sphere of circulation, its sphere of getting already-made things from place to place, is well represented by A****n, a certain sub-sub-sector of the pre-rust Rust Belt economy is still thriving here.  The toting and packaging functions being followed and fulfilled at A****n’s shipping warehouses may not be manufacturing jobs in even the loosest of senses, but they are most certainly blue-collar jobs of the same genus as the one subtended by a vocation whose demise is bewailed very lachrymosely indeed by pre-rust Rust Belt nostalgia-ists—namely that of the doughty, horizontally striped-shirted, Popeye-forearmed longshoreman who was an unbudgeable mainstay of this country’s ports (I apologize if this use of the nautical vehicle mainstay in a perinautical context constitutes a mixture of metaphors) before the advent of containerization.  But of course and as everybody knows, most of the most illustrious proprietors-cum-bearers of newly minted American proprietary names are neither directly nor indirectly involved in manufacturing things at all, and it is indeed highly debatable whether they are even participating in the so-called services sub-sector of the U.S. economy that according to certain parties more enlightened than our wonkess (albeit far from fully enlightened) has more than taken up the slack left by the moribundity of the manufacturing sub-sector.  For it is after all a notorious fact that for many years G****e, F****k, and T****r, despite their global name-recognition, were unable to become profitable—this, most obviously and also notoriously, because they rarely if ever charged their users (for one can scarcely call one who spends no money a customer) a dime, but also much less notoriously (if equally obviously to those with a functioning pair [in both upper and lower-body senses]) and indeed downright back-page-ishly, because they were not providing anything for the sake of not being without which anybody in his or her right mind would ever a sacrifice a dime.  By now all these companies (perhaps barring T****r) are of course in the black to the tune of milliards per annum, but this is only because back in ’08 or thenabouts they all bit a certain bullet that had doubtless been lying ready to hand and in non-Texan plain view on a silver plate (do I hear the howl of a wolf?) since the very first hour of the very late nineties-to-very early oughties day their respective founders devised them (i.e., the companies) in between bong hits in their (i.e., the founders’) respective ever-so-mandatorily cramped and smelly dorm rooms—namely, that of hosting aggressively conspicuous advertising by deep-pocketed third parties (i.e., for the most part, the same old rogue’s gallery of proprietary names by which we were assailed via television twenty, thirty, and even forty years ago [e.g., M* D****d’s, F**o L*y, O***r M***r, and D****y]).  And of course in a received-opinion-sphere in which Worthington’s Law ultimately reigns supreme (even among those who affect to contemn it), the present profitability of G****e et al. constitutes irrefutable proof not only that their founders and runners have alighted on a brilliant short-term get-rich scheme (an assertion that not even the present writer would contest), but also that these founders and runners are geniuses of unprecedented intellectual fecundity whose business prospectus (plural—fourth declension, natch) and indeed entire modi vivendi must be followed with hyper-realistic fidelity of detail by each and every hyperoccidental man, woman, ambulant child, and uncute animal who or which would fain not be torn into shark-feed (a.k.a. chum) by the remorselessly ineluctable one-way rip-tide of commercial history.  Each and every one of us, so hyperoccidental received opinion now maintains, must be striving 3600/60-360,000/1,000 to be in on the so-called ground floor (tho’ I prefer Dean Acheson’s more upmarket metaphor present at the creation) of the next F****k, T****r, U**r, etc., and accordingly must strive to be the next Mark Sugarwalls, Sergei Brineshrimp, or Travis SomenamethatsnotbickellandthatIcantbearsedtolookupletaloneparodicallyalter, and sub-accordingly spare no expense in having our noses and coiffures remodeled to match those of Dustin Diamond, Ringo Starr, or Charles Bronson.  But the abject dependence of G****e, F****k, and T****r on advertising is or should be a so-called red flag announcing to every rational being that these companies’ days as viable commercial concerns are numbered.  For insamsuch as people are still loath to pay for the these companies’ offered pseudo-services as things in themselves, the ineluctable implication of these companies’ profitability is that what is drawing people back to them is not these pseudo-services eo ipso but rather the phantasmagoric appeal of the products on display in the hosted advertisements.  And why should this come as anything of a surprise to us, given that intrinsically considered, the pseudo-services in question do not even require the mediation of the interweb and could not only subsist but positively thrive in a global social nexus utterly devoid of electronic communication networks of any kind.  That email (and hence G****e) merely electronically reconstitutes the interpersonal intelligence-bearing department of the world’s postal services is evident from its very name, and the same mutatis mutandis is true of the leading pimps of the so-called social media, F******k and T****r, although the redundancy is less easy to detect in their cases because for socially rather than technologically contingent reasons their arrogated functions did not exist in the pre-interwebbial world.  If people had really been interested in supposed friend-collecting after the manner facilitated by F******k—in other words, interested in simply publicly registering an awareness of the existence of as many and mutually far-flung people as possible, and of being capable of epistolary commerce with them—there would have been nothing to prevent them from doing so by, say, the late eighteenth century, by which point it was certainly technically possible to circulate printed materials to each and every urban center in every quadrant of the globe.  Indeed a perfectly technically feasible scenario for such a horfe, wind, and elbow greafe-powered F*****k is by no means hard to devise: one imagines residents of the participating municipalities supplying their names, street addresses, and brief self-descriptions to a local printer; the printer collating the names etc. into a registry and printing the registry several thousand times in broadsheet format; the post and the packet-boats conveying the broadsheets to other participating municipalities; the residents of those municipalities selecting the names of people they wish to befriend as correspondents; the printers compiling a new and more detailed registry grouping each addressee together with his or her chosen correspondents (and with those who have chosen to correspond with him or her), breaking that registry down by addressee, communicating the down-broken sub-registries by packet and post to all the participating municipalities, etc.  Of course the whole wretched business of getting people in touch with each other and one another would have taken much longer at a maximum data-transportation speed of twenty miles or eighteen knots per hour per 100MB (assuming each broadsheet to contain 10K of data, each carriage or ship-run to carry a thousand broadsheets, and a hundred ships and carriages to be in transit at any given moment), but after the first few months (assuming one month to equal one complete transatlantic post-and-packet cycle) that would not have mattered much, for by then the average participant would have garnered several dozen correspondents (assuming each participating municipality to contain at least one dedicated fan of faro, Hank Fielding, Joe Haydn, ballooning aut al.-stroke-c.)—easily many times more than enough to fill a leisure schedule devoted to nothing but reading and writing letters.  The reason F****k-style social networking did not take off two hundred and fifty years ago was of course that people back then had as many friends as they needed—or, at any rate, cared to have—in their home municipalities and tended to find it a chore to stay in touch by letter even with close relatives residing more than a half a day’s carriage ride away; and F****k itself would never have taken off in our own time had not the picture-screened mobile telephone—the so-called smart phone—made the fetishism of bandwith-driven data transmission-speed, formerly an obsession confined to so-called tech geeks, into a universal neurosis afflicting even the most technically ignorant-cum-apathetic teeny-boppers and centenarians.  No F*****k user actually takes a scintilla of pleasure in corresponding with his or her so-called friends in such mutually far-flung locales as Bandar Seri Begawan, Ulaanbaatar, and Sheboygan, but the act of uploading to F******k a 10-gigabyte movie (say, some Warhol-esque video-diary of the user himself or herself picking his or her a(*)**(e) for eighteen hours straight) that can be viewed by each of these mutually far-flung so-called friends is enormously gratifying to every F******k user in demonstrating to him or her the fantabulous data-transporting capabilities of his or her present phone by comparison with the old candlestick he or she was obliged to shift with way back in the Paleolithic days (quasi-literally days—i.e., actually a mere trio or, at most, quartet of months) of very-late 2016 to very-early 2017 (to say nothing of the lumbering cretaceous-epoch 2015-manufactured phones fumblingly manipulated by his or her mum and dad, or almost infinitely less than nothing of the proverbial pre-Cambrian computer that was obliged to put the first human on the moon all by its feeble transistor-driven stadium-filling lonesome, and thereby demonstrating that putting a human being on the moon is a much smaller step for man than the uploading of an a(*)**(*)-picking video to F******k).  So the ostensibly socially-oriented raison d’être of the platform is a ruse, and one that is bound to be undermined and indeed eroded into untenability and ultimately nonexistence as the platform’s sustaining advertisements, in incorporating more and more supposedly sophisticated—and consequently more greedily bandwith-hogging—son et lumière effects in their own right come to usurp the so-called friend-to-so-called friend electronic shipments qua demonstrations of telephonic virtual horsepower.  Of course (and here I am partially quoting myself) probably very soon—say, within the next decade—the famous Moore’s Law will reach its atomic limit and phones will be incapable of getting any faster and the whole phantasmagoric apparatus, like a de-hived swarm of bees, will have to find an entirely different and as-yet-unimagined (at least by the present author) material platform—unless, that is, by then the so-called quantum computer processor has been both effectually engineered and manufactured in sufficiently numerous numbers to fit into a mass-marketed mobile telephone, in which case there is no telling how long hyperoccidentals will continue to confuse the epiphenomena of technical improvements in the infrastructure of the circulation of intellectual sewage (wherein, in contrast to the circulation of biophysical sewage, the material rather than being purified is allowed to ferment and become ever-more-noxiously feculent) with economic productivity in an old-school sense, with or without the supplementary delusive assistance of F******k-like entities.   Proprietary entities like U**r (of which there are many besides U**r, the most famous of these probably being A** *&*) are even more ludicrous than F******k in adding nothing more than an unwarranted aura of safety and respectability to practices that have been engaged in throughout the world since the dawn of human civilization.  The most obvious, because the most widely geographically evident, precedent for U**r is of course hitch-hiking, but there are certainly others that even more closely hew to its core mission of providing more affordable alternatives to taxis in urban centers.  I can attest, for example, that here in Baltimore it was—or rather, probably, has been (for although I have not seen evidence of the practice in a few years, in the light of its refreshingly completely red-tape-free informality it would greatly surprise me to learn that it has been superseded by U**r completely)—an extremely common custom to hail rides from unliveried private vehicles driven by people not licensed by the city to convey passengers.  The practice is or was so well-established that the local argot even has or had a word to distinguish such vehicles categorically from official liveried cabs (your Checkers, Diamonds, Red Balls, and so forth)—viz. a hack.  To be sure, the term is neither autochthonous nor judiciously applied—historically and geographically speaking, throughout the Anglosphere hack, being derived from Hackney as in Hackney cab or carriage, is merely a slightly downmarket term for a cab or taxi, but here in Baltimore, where a taxi or cab by any other name apparently does not count as such, it, hack, does serviceable enough yeoman service in setting apart the carruchial goats from the carruchial sheep (or vice-versa).  There is or was even a semiotic protocol for hailing a hack, or, more precisely, for signaling that one is interested exclusively in the services of a hack, that unliveried vehicles alone should heed the summons and that all liveried vehicles should seek their fares elsewhere.  This protocol consists or consisted in pointing one’s arm-cum-hand-cum-extended index finger not at a forty-five or even fifty-degree angle from one’s shoulder, as if drawing an actual or imaginary companion’s attention to a notable bird in some treetop across the street, as one does when hailing a cab, but rather in pointing it directly at the horizon and then repeatedly jerking the index finger nervously and indeed almost spastically towards the pavement (in either a British or an American sense, depending on how close to the curb [or kerb] one is standing), as if drawing some presumably imaginary dog-walker’s attention to a particularly voluminous deposit that he or she has had the confounded effrontery not to scoop up.  No fancy-schman(t)zy apps were or are involved, and yet at least in my presence the gesture has very seldom failed of meeting its mark, of smoothly drawing the passenger-side back door of an unmarked mid-’70s-to-early ’80s Impala, Bonneville, Cutlass, autc. level with the hailer’s legs within a matter of a very few minutes.  In the light of such a potent combination of simplicity and efficacy one at first blush wonders how U**r ever came to flourish in this town, or why one began to notice a diminution of the presence of taxis on its streets only after U**r’s local advent.  But then on second blush one recalls why one oneself has not so far sought out the services of a hack—viz., that one does not trust some presumably louche character driving an undeniably louche vehicle like a mid-’70s to early ’80s Impala, Bonneville, Cutlass, autc. to transport one to one’s intended destination in one unmolested piece and without having shaken one down for one’s every last penny on earth plus a cool grand or so in IOUs secured with the kneecaps of one’s next of kin beforehand—and the recent-to-current local prosperity of U**r at the expense of the officially licensed taxis becomes an eye-burstingly self-evident foregone conclusion.  For after all, the demographic profile of the typical U**r driver is—or at least until very recently was—that of a decidedly unlouche and indeed superlatively nice person—a college student, middle-bourgeois mater- or paterfamilias, or wholesomely bohemian artist looking to pick up a bit of extra cash in between classes, school runs, or gallery viewings.  Such a nice person, so the assumption must run among habitual U**r users, would never charge a passenger a penny more than the rate exacted by the meters of officially licensed cabs, let alone do anything untoward to his or her person–or at least so it must have run until the louche mobility got wind of U**r as a lucrative base on wheels for their louche activities, as they seem to have done round about four years ago, to judge by the “List of U**r Horror Stories” that appeared at the Daily Beast on November 19, 2014.  (For the record: in this matter the present writer is in virtually no position to furnish any anecdotage drawn from his personal experience, as he does not own a mobile telephone and therefore cannot use U**r, although he feels obliged to disclose that he has exactly once, in October 2015, taken an U**r-sponsored ride as a fellow-passenger of its securer, that the securer gave no sign of regarding the fare as being unfair, and that neither the securer nor the present writer was physically, emotionally, or spiritually assaulted by the driver, who seemed to be a very nice sort of chap.)  And of course one assumes that there is an equally voluminous list of horror stories associated with A** *&*-lodgings and all the other interweb app-enabled and branded forms of self-whoring that have emerged in the past butcher’s half-decade.  And how could it be otherwise, given that not even the least opprobrious of these despicable practices is materially distinguishable from some imposture that every decent, would be-self-respecting now-living hyperoccidental over the age of, say, 25, was sternly adjured to run like heck from by his aut al. mother or wet-nurse from his aut al. or her earliest infancy?  And yet such exercises in wanton chicanery are (at least so the present writer hears tell) now held up as literal textbook examples of good old-fashioned Yankee gumption-cum-know how-cum entrepreneurship by every schoolmaster or schoolmistress in the hyperoccidental congeries of lands.  And I have not even begun to lay into these meretricious practices from the point-of-view of the hapless chump of a c*m-d***pster (or, in rightpondial parlance, c*m-sk*p) who is stupid or desperate enough to engage in them—from the point of view of Joe or Jill College Student, Middle-Bourgeois Mater- or Paterfamilias, Wholesomely Bohemian Artist, or (since at least 2014) Louche Grifter-aut/cum-Psychopath.  Imagine, if you will, my decidedly undear reader, what it must be like, after having put in one’s eight-and-a-half hours in the quite conceivably literal salt mines, to don a black vinyl-visor’d yellow hat and listen with patience to a seemingly interminable succession of whinge-fests while dodging a seemingly endless succession of errant dump-trucks, so-called smart cars, and fire engines; or a tailcoat and black tie and be sent scurrying back into one’s own kitchen a hundred times over the course of an evening-cum-night-cum-early morning in the futile aim of getting a morsel of steak or salmon the spectroscopically undetectable shade of pink demanded by the ugly American’s ugly American to whom you have granted the privilege of calling your house his or her home for as long as he or she is willing to pay a penny more per night than the rate exacted by the nearest Motel 6.  Short of round-the-clock utter prostration by an excruciatingly painful illness, I can conceive of no mode of existence on offer in the present world that more closely approximates the fate of some damned soul in the Hell of the Dantean or Edwardsian type.  Nor can I conceive of a mode of breadwinning more degrading.  And last and certainly not least and indeed probably most in this setting, this mode of existence, far from producing anything in a pre-Rust Belt sense, is not even generating new services; rather, as implied in earlier assertion herein, it is merely reapportioning previously delivered services among a new aggregation of servants (and let there be no outraged nose-crinkling at my dubbing Bob or Suzy U**r-Driver  or Air *&*-host(ess) a servant, for what other word in our language more charitable than slave is there for a person who performs a service in person at the grotty, smelly, bedpan-emptying level?).  And yet this so-called gig economy—along with the pseudo-or downright anti-social media that I have already shown up for the glorified battery tester-cum-ad rag that they collectively constitute–is revered by hyperoccidental received opinion as the pinnacle of American political-economic achievement, and is purportedly more revolutionary than steam power, electric power, cinema, radio, television, nuclear power, train travel, car travel, air travel, and space travel combined.  Why, the sheer lunacy and insolence of the whole notion is enough to make Eli Whitney, Thomas Edison, Philo Farnsworth, the Wright Brothers, and all the other classic great American inventors spin in their aggregated graves with a combined kinetic force potent enough to displace solar, wind, etc. as the next great source of energy (i.e., the first such next great source actually bidding fair to imperil a traditional energy source-driven economy like Russia’s).  But what hope have we Americans of extricating ourselves from our delusive infatuation with our own wanton fallowness of invention when the remainder of the hyperoccident unremittingly deluges us with encouragement of our fatuity by praising to the skies (and into the so-called cloud) the nonexistent wonders of F******k, T****r, U**r, etc.?  When is this remainder of the hyperoccident—which after all, in collectively comprising perhaps as many as a milliard-and-a-half souls (if one includes in that remainder not only the other traditionally English-speaking countries and the EU but also the remainder of the Commonwealth and all the former French colonies), demographically dwarfs our mere third of a milliard—going to realize that these proprietary will-o-the-wisps are materially indistinguishable from all the blustery and intellectually toxic persiflage it (or they) rightly contemn(s) in the United States?  The locus classicus-cum-horribilis of this attitude of abject Yankophilia—in my eyes-cum-mouth it indeed counts as the other or crowning slice of bread in the gargantuan shit sandwich whose first or foundational slice is our wonkess’s denunciation of Russia as a non-producer of things that other countries want to buy—is a comment made by some Labour MP whose name escapes me (as it obviously has every right to do given that I am not a member of his constituency in Bury St. Cumbert, Bilgewater on Ouze, autc.) on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions within a few weeks of the inauguration of the 45th American president.  “How can it be,” the presumptive front bencher-cum-non shadow cabinet member sententiously queried, as if having just alighted on the most piquantly provocative paradox since Bertrand Russell’s one about the barber, “that the country that has produced Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg has also produced Donald Trump?”  To my seemingly antediluvian ears this question had—and in my seemingly antediluvian mind’s ears now has—all the piquantly provocative paradoxicality of such questions as “How can it be that the country that has engendered the invention of the whoopee cushion and fake dog poo has also engendered the invention of farting powder?” or “How can it be that the country that countenances the publication of Hustler and Jugs also countenances the publication of Club International?”  In other words, heretical as this may sound to the at least comparatively postdevluvian mind’s ears of most if not all of the hereunto most sympathetic segment of my readership--each constituent of which has presumably vouchsafed my imprecations against F*****k etc. a sympathetic right-on, jude! but also has presumably regarded the cofounder of A***e as a secular saint since 1984 or the year of his or her earliest memory, whichever is more recent, and now regards Mr. Trump as a, or rather, the Antichrist (for there can after all be but one of him)—I regard Messrs. Jobs and Zuckerberg essentially as woodcocks of the same gormless and unsightly feather as Mr. Trump, united as they are with him in being dedicated peddlers of meretricious trash.  For am Arsch the entire umpteen-trillion-dollar produce of the A***e empire is as contingent, superficial, and adventitious in its relation to what if any Geist-furthering work computers actually accomplish as Mr. Trump’s network of cheesy casinos and hotels and blowhard table-thumping antics on The Apprentice are in their relation to whatever Geist-furthering work is actually accomplished by so-called entrepreneurs and captains of industry (or indeed even commerce or finance [for I have no inclination whatsoever to engage in the fatuous and fractious old practice of lambasting the supposed superfluity of the so-called middle man of business {cf. Samuel Johnson’s spirited apologia for the tacksman in his Journey to the Western Isles}]).  To be sure, it is awfully nice to be able to see one’s own words (or at any rate the words one has been impelled, by whatever efficient or final cause, to commit to paper, whether actual or virtual) immediately rendered in graceful serif characters (not that I myself am well-heeled enough to be typing the present essay on an A***e machine, but I concede that in the absence of Mr. Jobs’s obsession with such cosmetic effects they probably would not now be achievable via cheaper reckoners) without the dilatory and expensive intervention of a printing shop (which intervention, it must be noted, did keep a number of pairs of hands besides the writer’s gainfully employed for at least a tiny fraction of an hour), but in point of the bottom-line mechanical essentials of the writer’s c**ft, in point sheer speed and ease of typage and untypage (i.e., the correction of errors), a green or amber-screened ca. 1983 IBM PC would work every bit as well as a top-of-the-line 2018 M******sh  (or, rather, I-Whatever-the-Name-of-an-A***e-Made-Desktop-or-Laptop-Computer Is Nowadays [supposing A***e still makes—or, rather, causes to be made—anything so abjectly unhip {yet utterly indispensable to anyone wishing to compose anything longer than a t**t or T***t} as an ordinary laptop or desktop computer]).   And even in its prize bailiwick, the bailiwick of aesthetics, A***e falls abysmally short of the standards of any aesthete who does not crassly reduce aesthetics to the immediate palpation of the senses, to a combination of smooth contours, soothing colors, rich Corinthian leather, and the like.  One could site examples of this shortcoming on the aesthetic front dating back to the early years of the A***e II, but for textual economy’s sake ([both DGR-like interjection charging the present writer with indifference to and indeed outright contempt for textual economy and author’s spirited defense against the charge omitted for that selfsame TE’s sake]), I shall stick to an illustration taken from the present A***e-verse, viz. the ineluctable I-T***s.  My principal objections to I-T***s are not directed at the look or feel of the thing, to its aesthetic shortcomings in the vulgar sybaritic sense (though, to be sure, I am no fan of the virtual brushed stainless steel that frames all of I-T***s’ windows at least by default) but rather to what one might term its ideal aesthetic habitus, i.e., the sort of musical outlook and collection of listening preferences that it seems to assume is shared by all its users.  As the world’s default recorded music-playing platform, I-T***s is used by music-listeners of every conceivable age and taste-orientation—I shall eschew the at-such-moments-as-the-present-one-obligatory cascading from…to catalogue because filling it out to its requisite amplitude would perforce exact the naming of a number of pseudo-schools-cum-genres (e.g., emo, grime, and tam-tam and treble) that by all rights should be reduced to the single rhetorically deflationary yet utterly just appellation of pop.  Now, as the ideal reader of this b**g will already know, the present writer has hardly any interest whatsoever in pop music and is almost exclusively interested in serious or real music; i.e., the music vulgarly known as classical, but it is not the mere bigotry (if extremism in defense of merit can ever rightly be called bigotry) of a classical music buff that actuates my principal objection to I-T***s’ ideal aesthetic habitus; it is actuated, rather, by my bipartite awareness as an Anglophone and a person of the world in the broadest and least snooty of senses—the sense in which every compos-mentis present-day human over the age of 10 should be a person of the world regardless of his or her so-called socioeconomic background—that a song is a musical composition that involves the human voice [chowder-headed DGR-ish Mendelssohn-centered demurral and sagacious authorial retort thereunto omitted ob multissimas causas] and that not every single unit of music ever committed to some aurally echoic medium is an instance of such a composition.  To be sure, a great many, and perhaps even the majority, of such recorded non-songs—all those overtures, symphonies, concertos, etc.—hail from the so-called classical repertoire, but a great many other musical corpora are dominated by them—jazz, for instance, and bluegrass, not to mention hearty chunks of the recorded output of most extra-Occidental musical traditions.  The pre-nebular epoch of hi-fidelity recording—i.e., the period stretching from the advent of the LP in 1948 to the beginning of the out-bowing of the CD in ca. 2002 (I refuse to aver that the CD was superseded by the various MPs inasmuch as the sound quality available on the highest-end CDs has always outpaced that of the average I-T***s download by a considerable stretch)—enjoyed the currency of a catch-all noun denoting any unit of music distinguished on the platter in question’s label by a number followed by a title or some other sort of name and separated from both its predecessor and successor on the platter in question by a decorous interval. This noun was track, and no listener, were he or she the lowest-browed teeny-bopper or the highest-browed classical music buff, seemed to have any complaint with the denotation of such a unit by this particular noun.  To be sure, most teeny-boppers of that baker’s half-century very probably had never heard of any mode or genre of music that did not center on the human voice, but their ignorance on this point had not put them off cuing up tracks rather than songs on their Panasonic phonographs or Sony Discmen any more than had the presumably universal absence of a likeness of Fabian, Debbie Gibson, or Britney Spears on the turntables or casings thereof.  Such having been the case, it came as not only an unwelcome change but also a genuinely surprising one when the present writer, upon using I-T***s for the very first time, in 2003 or 2004, discovered that every single sound-unit in his musical library, which then as now consisted overwhelmingly of purely instrumental works, was now ineffaceably termed a song.  But he has had to lump the misnomination and submit to cuing up nothing but songs on his laptop and I-P*d, all because back in 2001 or 2002, the shot-calling louts at A***e HQ, presumably up to and including Mr. Jobs himself, either were teeny-boppers of larger growth themselves, or assumed that everybody but themselves was a teeny-bopper, or (worst and yet most probably of all) assumed that everybody either was a teeny-bopper or wanted to think of himself or herself as one and was therefore mortally mortified at the notion of being interested in non-vocal music of any kind.  One has of course been hearing philippics against our so-called culture’s worship of youth for decades, and while the seemingly unchallengeable prevalence of such youth-worship is undeniable, the polemicists have all too often gone for the sitting-duck of a meta-target of youthful physical beauty and consequently left themselves all too vulnerable to the charge that their resentment is actuated by mere envy actuated in turn by pure vanity.  “Why can’t we see older models in our fashion and porn magazines, older anchorpeople on our evening news programmes, older CGI enhanced cat-suited actors in our summer comic book superhero blockbuster movies?” these de facto pruned-faced, pabulum-sucking Zimmer frame-pushers incessantly whinge.  The present writer, by contrast, despite or perhaps because he was not even remotely photogenic even in his youth, but most likely because he consumes neither the mags nor the movies nor the shows in question, flatters himself that he is happy to cede every pixel of the so-called media’s photographic fetishism of young flesh as youth’s quasi-sempiternal birthright; and in his resentment of I-T***s’ fetishism of the teeny-bopper aesthetic habitus he flatters himself that he is getting to the core or gist of the noxiousness, the viciousness, the perniciousness, of pandemic youth-worship, inasmuch as this resentment is at least in unsmall part disinterested, or perhaps rather, and even more commendably, interested, on behalf of young people themselves qua at-minimum-conceivably autonomous subjects.  I would like to think that even Chet and Caitlin Teeny-Bopper are at least marginally aware of and not completely contemptuous of non-vocal music and would appreciate the semantic precision of a playlist incorporating both songs and non-songs under the auspices of a single, vocally neutral designation, be it track, chunk, clod, or whatever non song-synonym the louts that be at A***e will suffer.  I would like to think, moreover, that even if Chet and Caitlin Teeny-Bopper are either not even marginally aware of non-vocal music, or if aware of it completely contemptuous of it, they are appreciative of the aesthetic integrity of units of music transcending the confines of a single track (or, rather, song), to think that they at least occasionally enjoy listening to an assorted succession of albums by their favorite butcher’s half-gross of flash-in-the-pan guitar-shredding ensembles or boy bands, and accordingly at least occasionally bristle at having to hear the first song on one of these albums followed not by the second song thereon but rather by, say, the ninth song on an album by a completely different flash-in-the-pan guitar-shredding ensemble or boy band.  Alas, I T***s affords them no means of speedily gratifying their fastidiousness on this score in that it does not allow the user to treat albums (let alone such generally sub-album-length yet multi-song entities as symphonies, sonatas, and concertos) as integral unpartitionable units either in a playlist or in a so-called shuffle mix.  To be sure, it is easy enough—at least when the pathetic s*ds who update I-T***s’s database gratis have done their perversely voluntary sixteen-ton job of slave labor properly—to listen to one Fabian or Felicity Twinkle or Testicular Atrophy album after another by simply sorting one’s library by album-title; but in order to listen to an entire Fabian album followed by an entire Felicity Twinkle album and an entire Testicular Atrophy Album, one must laboriously assemble a playlist including only the songs from the desired albums; and the possibility of listening to a succession of albums at random—to an entire Felicity Twinkle album followed at hazard by an entire Walker Brothers album and in turn, and equally at hazard, by an entire Assück album—is foreclosed by the so-called shuffle function’s automatic atomization of every album into an agglomeration of infinitely mutually alienable songs, each of which is juxtaposible in the mix with a song hailing from any album ascribed to any so-called artist hailing from any sphere of music-making; such that in listening to one of these I-T***s random mixes one invariably finds oneself having to sit, stand, dance, or snooze (or indeed any or all of the above in alternation) one’s way through, say, four minutes of Frank Sinatra followed by thirty seconds of Assück followed by eighteen minutes of the Gamelan Son of Lion followed by four minutes of Liszt as played by Charles Rosen, &c.  It is enough to make any halfway grownup person turn his back on and a deaf ear to the entire musical cloudscape. (The recent-to-present craze for LPs among young hipsters, while prevailingly upchalkable to the fatuously misplaced fetishization of what has after all always been a thoroughly mass-produced and standardized commodity as though it were as artisanal an object as a Fabergé egg or a Chippendale cabinet, probably owes a modicum of its intensity to such sane and laudable anti-nurseryism.)  And yet it is, after all, entirely of a piece with the pre-pre-pre-pubescent ideal aesthetic habitus imagined by the nominally productive sector of the U.S. economy en bloc—with the utterly unapologetic (and unprotested) elbowing of advertising into places, both virtual and actual, wherein its absence was formerly taken for granted; with the incorporation of so-called emojis into communications of the most impersonal nature from the most po-facedly institutional communicators; with the posting of so-called spoiler warnings in every context in which the least imaginative and most ignorant creature on the planet could conceivably derive the tiniest scintilla of pleasure from not being apprised of the outcome of a narrative in advance [e.g., in a plot synopsis of one of the four gospels, the reader will be vouchsafed a spoiler alert before being informed that Jesus is crucified towards the end].  The sheer, naked, brazen, shameless vacuity, asininity, and infantilism of the supposed vanguard of the present nominally productive sector of the U.S. economy is an embarrassment of c**ptacular proportions, an embarrassment that does not so much make a mockery of the old-fashioned sleeve-uprolling, grindstone-sniffing model of Yankee brawn-cum-know-how as utterly submerge that model from the view of living memory in a barrow-mound of excrement.  In all truth—or at least the preponderance of truth that so far bids fair to carry the day—the only material commodity that the United States produces entirely within its own borders and “that other countries want to buy” in sufficient quantity to make or break our domestic prosperity is dollars, and the market for dollars is in turn buoyed largely if not entirely by the mobility of other countries’ infantile and gormless belief—or, rather and at-best, against hope-hoping hope—that F*****k, T****r, A****e, et al. (or etc.) are up to something substantial after all.  Of course, it may be plausibly argued (and indeed the argument is so plausible that in all candor and frankness I cannot pooh-pooh it as yet another blockheaded confabulation of a counterfactual DGR), for more than a hundred years the United States has been making money H over F via its propagation of insubstantial illusion via cinema and television to every C of the G; and in all frankness and candor I concede to the promulgators of this argument that our domestic illusion-factory may yet have just enough juice in it to keep us out of the political-economic doldrums long enough to spare us a complete socio-econo-political train-wreck (brazenly unapologetic [sic] on the metaphor-mixture); but by that same or some other uncannily similar token, it must be acknowledged, first, that the United States does not enjoy some sort of spiritual monopoly-cum-royal charter on illusion-mongering any more than France enjoys one on the production of fine wine and cheese or Italy on the curing of spicy sausages, that there have been periods when Hollywood was threatened by the cinematic produce of other countries [more on this specifically in connection with the Soviet and Russian cinemas anon], and that just as we now tend to rate certain French and Dutch vodkas more highly than the leading Russian ones and are coming to appreciate certain Italian pale ales and Japanese scotches, so we may soon enough cease thinking of Hollywood as the dream-factory of first resort [the most obvious harbinger of such a decentering is of course the increasingly global profile of so-called Bollywood, but the popularity of so-called Scandi-noir detective television series in Anglo-Saxia is probably ultimately more telling]; and second, that historically the United States’s hegemony in cinema has been superstructed on its film-industry’s successful and in some measure authentic depiction of a so-called American way of life, a way of life that has always generally been depicted as superstructed in turn on a combination of the industrial activity of the old so-called Rust Belt and the agricultural activity of the old so-called Heartland.  To be sure, audiences around the world have always enjoyed a movie centered on the fortunes of some young enterprising Madison Avenue copywriter or some would-be movie starlet waiting tables at some greasy spoon sited within a stone’s throw of the MGM, Columbia, or Warner Brothers back lot, but the scenario of such a movie generally had one of its feet firmly planted in some provincial locale where some humble, unglamorous, unspectacular, and yet emphatically productive activity was being engaged in with great alacrity and success by the locals.  In today’s Hollywood the norm is to depict metropolitan American office life as a kind of sanitized, air-conditioned, business-casual cocoon entirely cut off not only from the provinces but even from the so-called street life of the city in which the office in question is purportedly sited (I say “purportedly” because nowadays even a movie set in Los Angeles itself is apt to be filmed in some incredibly un-L.A.-like place like Vancouver or Des Moines [and while this lack of resemblance may in itself account in part for the infrequency of exterior shots in such a movie, one must for all that consider that the movie’s producers would never have settled on Vancouver or Des Moines in lieu of L.A. if they had not regarded the other city as being at bottom the same f***kin’ place as the City of Angels]).  Complementarily, when today’s Hollywood opts to shoot on location, whether amid the row-houses of Baltimore or the cornfields of Kansas, it generally seeks out the most economically and spiritually depressed spots and does everything in its considerable rhetorical power to emphasize the misery, economic unproductivity, and all-around ultimate futility of the existences of the people supposedly unfortunate enough to live there.  On being presented such a stridently bifurcated depiction of American life, one in which neither side of the divide is ever-so-remotely appealing, why would any Indonesian, Kenyan, or Albanian, let alone a German, Chinaperson, or Liechtensteiner, want to live here, or even continue to shell out his or her hard-earned (or otherwise acquired) rupiahs, autc. on such rebarbative kinetic representations of such a demoralizing Volksdasein?  But the studios—or, rather, perhaps, the multi-myriad so-called independent production teams that have nominally replaced them—relentlessly keep churning out such unpalatable castor oil-saturated pap under the Sundance and Oscar-blessed label of biting social commentary, and why should they do otherwise when their so-called target audience is not the mass of starry-eyed overseas cinema-gourmandizing youngsters of yore, but rather the phony Stateside middle class of pseudo-accredited mock-functionaries (i.e., the recipients of the academic equivalent of vanity publishing deals who constitute the at-minimum-adequately-whelming majority of so-called college graduates in this country) and gig-economy workers whose genitals become engorged at the sight of all those dreary gray so-called open-plan offices staffed with dreary hordes of open-collared and blue-jeaned twentysomethings, because they mistake them for the smithies and smiths (respectively) of progress, and whose “withers are unwrung” by the crimes and vices of urban and rural bottom-feeders because their own quintessentially suburban version of whoredom happens to be pandered to and pimped by the latest model I-ph*ne.  In point of fact, whoredom is far too kind a word for the modus laborandi of the gig-worker, inasmuch as a dedicated full-time whore, just like a dedicated, full-time cabdriver, hotelier, courier aut al., is compelled merely to engage in a single repertoire of self-debasing gestures, maneuvers, calculations, etc., that may be repeated, with very minor variations, from client to client; such that while he or she is technically and to all outward appearances servicing  anywhere from several to hundreds of anuses in the course of a work week, from a private or spiritual point of view (or taste)  he or she is effectively servicing a single anus with a predictable repertoire of flavors, textures, and flexures; whereas the gig-worker—i.e., the part-time cabdriver cum part-time hotelier cum part-time courier et al.—is effectively in the decidedly unedifying and unenviable position of an unwilling guest at a sort of anilingual or even coprophagic all-you-can-eat (or, rather, all you must eat) smorgasbord featuring dozens of mutually incommensurable anuses, each of which must be humored according to its own unique and infungible set of desiderata.  To be sure, the typical deludely alacritous gig-worker will contrive to persuade himself or herself that there is something highly and fundamentally (in two or more ways) redeeming about this oro-proctological juggling act; he or she may even come to fancy himself or herself a kind of connoisseur of the various vintages and varietals of anus, to persuade himself or herself that the pungent alkalinity of the anus of an octogenarian heavy black coffee drinker is infinitely preferable to the bland saccharineness of the chocolate starfish of a vigintigenarian sweet-tooth; or perhaps, rather, that while each of them is excellent in its own way, neither may be savored to the fullest except when prefaced or succeeded by its ideal gustatory complement—a sniff and a lick at the poo-chutes of, say, a quadragenarian oenophile and a quinquagenarian vegetarian, respectively.  And far be it from the present writer to assert that the cultivation of such a discriminating coprophagic palate is either impossible or undesirable; to the contrary, he is much of a mind to conjecture that the United States already teems in the tens if not hundreds of thousands with coprophagic connoisseurs and that inasmuch as the ranks of such anilingual gourmets bid fair to outnumber those of aficionados of craft mead, cupcakes, home-grown cale, and artisanal shoelaces combined within the next five years, these tens if not hundreds of thousands are residing on the very acme of the cutting edge of the biggest and most inexorable tsunami of the future.  Howbeit, he, the present writer, will and shall be bold enough ever so humbly to crave from his very-near-future demographic overlords some infinitesimal modicum of slack in accommodation of what he cannot but regard as an irremediable organic defect in his organism occasioned by his having not only grown up and come of age but also ripened and gone all but entirely to seed in a (or, rather, because there is no pretending that there is any hope [or, rather, dread] of going back, the) pre-gig economy; inasmuch as, according to his seemingly irreparably damaged lights (and nose and tongue) an anus is an anus is an anus, and all anuses look, smell, and taste uniformly and mutually indistinguishably awful.  Not that he, the present writer, is some sort of po-faced, clothespin-nosed, corncob-rectum’d prissy-boy who fancies that he is above all that, who fancies that one may go to one’s grave as blissfully ignorant of the taste of others’ anuses as one (or at least he, the present writer) has always been of one’s own; to the contrary, ever since he was a wee bairn knee-high to an Etruscan shrew he has been aware of and has reflexively acquiesced in the not particularly encouraging notion that every kind or line of remunerative work universally and ineluctably if contingently exacts a certain amount of anilingis; and, indeed, at least since he has been in long slacks (a watershed or milestone that admittedly will mean little or nothing not only to his juniors but also to most of his contemporaries and elders), he has been willing enough—albeit not exactly game—to countenance the downright demoralizing notion that such work no less universally or ineluctably (albeit no less contingently) consists of nothing but anilingis.  All the same, in hailing from the pre gig-economy macro-era he cannot manage to shake himself free of the delusion that once one has done one’s bit of remunerative labor for the portion of the day allocated to it—a portion never to exceed eight hours, or, at any rate (once one has thrown in one’s ever-interruptible lunch) eight-point-five hours, or rather (once one has also thrown in one’s ever-dilating commute) ten-point-nine-and-counting hours—one should not be expected to have any further commerce with anuses (apart from the absolutely unavoidable manual commerce with one’s own), that from that point onwards until the start of the next workday one is entitled to regard one’s Lebenswelt as a veritable anus-free zone.  Naturally, he realizes that such a clear-cut bifurcation of anilingual and non-anilingual phases of the day is out of the question now, at least for anyone spineless enough (as he concedes he is) to desire and seek off-the-clock social intercourse with his fellow-living hominids; that given that an ever-increasing plurality of the verbiage spewed from the north-anuses of these F-LHs consists of the unremunerated promotion (a.k.a. up-b*****g) of the gig economy, and even more offensively, of adjurations to join in the gig economy oneself, to liaise lingually with this or that anus of especially auspicious purulence, he will at least have to spend a goodly proportion of his nominally non-working and even non-work-pertaining hours licking ass, if only by proxy (not that a proxy ass, in virtue of the term’s inevitable evocation of certain industrially [albeit regrettably not domestically] produced succedanea, should be confused with a synthetic ass, i.e., a latex ass, i.e., a pleasant-smelling ass; for not unlike a proxy server it retains every aroma-particle of its client’s unendurable rankness).  Naturally, or rather unnaturally if eminently understandably (at least by any admittedly empirically virtually nonexistent rational nice person), he would much prefer to spend if not the bulk then at least the third class of these nominally non-working-cum-non-work pertaining hours sedulously abrading the derma of his nose with a presumably pedally powered grindstone as his quasi or pseudo ancestors of a century or so ago did, but as nowadays such hyper-old-school diligence not only never receives a penny of financial remuneration or an Etruscan shrew’s Zen handclap of acclaim but is actually greeted uniformly and universally by contempt and ridicule, he, the present writer, cannot forbear entertaining fantasies deriving from the only pre-gig-economy-originating classic American scenario of material self-actualization that still enjoys a modicum of currency (even if it never has enjoyed a modicumette of respectability), viz. that of suddenly striking it rich through some complete windfall—i.e., an event to whose precipitation neither one’s own labor nor one’s own ingenuity has contributed a jot.  The most prevalent version of this scenario is of course that of winning the lottery (a designation that really ought to be expanded to something like winning the jackpot of one of those really big multi-state lotteries, inasmuch as in a lottery it is never the lottery itself that is up for winning, and as the average return on a winning lottery ticket—viz. ca. $10—cannot make anybody rich), but inasmuch as nice people (rational or otherwise) don’t play the lottery and the present writer has at least not quite yet resigned himself to being an un-nice person, he is fain to have recourse to a less popular (albeit still eminently entertainable) version, viz. that of some poor s*d simply stumbling upon something incredibly valuable whilst going about his quotidian business—the version enshrined in the example of Jed Clampett, that poor mountaineer who whilst shootin’ at some food alighted upon a massive field of bubblin’ crude—i.e., oil, black gold, or Texas tea—and consequently became one of the 90210 ZIP-code’s wealthiest residents.  I have concluded that inasmuch as it is utterly impossible for me to participate productively in the economic life of my country of citizenship and residence, my only hope of contentment lies in accidentally becoming a fulltime rentier; i.e., a person living entirely on or off what he already owns; for then, Worthington’s Law will ensure that no matter how ridiculous, antiquated, or just plain barmy my fellow-countrypeople regard my outlook and utterances, they will be obliged—nay, compelled—to hold their peace and treat me with more respect than they deign to vouchsafe any gig-worker, or indeed gig-tycoon, whose net worth is a penny less than my own, just as the ultra-snooty banker to the stars Milburn Drysdale was compelled to pay court round the clock to Jed Clampett despite the latter’s obdurate adherence to his pigf***erly mountaineerin’ ways.  And naturally it will not have escaped the eye of any discerning reader that this unabashedly sedentary rentier’s ethos, this feudalism for dummy’s dummies (albeit filthy rich dummy’s dummies), that I am unapologetically espousing, is tantamount to a reduction of present-day Russia’s political economy to the proportions of a bachelor’s household; such that at least on the political-economic plane I am obliged, nay compelled, to confess myself very much a present-day Russian rather than a present-day American in spirit. 

Of course it will also not have escaped the eye of a certain kind of discerning reader—namely, a discerning reader with no knowledge of pre-late nineteenth century history (hence empirically speaking any discerning reader once again) that the portion of my argument advanced in the preceding section contains or seems to contain what he or she cannot but regard as a gaping hole.  The gaping hole consists in or of this—that in b**ging up the present-day Russian political-economic habitus merely as a pis aller and in clinging to nose-to-the-grindstone-ism as an ideal political-economic habitus, I have merely set myself up as a kind of contingent, fair-weather Russophile who would, if he had his druthers, desert to the hyperoccidental side at the drop of one of his beloved Astrakhan hats, a man who must indeed be regarded as more fundamentally an Amerophile than a Russophile inasmuch as his ideal economic habitus has never flourished better than on American soil and has never flourished at all on Russian permafrost.  “That it—the nose-to-the-grindstone habitus—is either moribund or extinct in the U.S.A. of the present is certainly persuasively arguable” (so concedes the worthy hole-espier [who is by no means to be confused with a DGR]), “but this extinction or moribundity, no matter how ineluctable or irreversible it may be, is certainly no grounds for embracing a quasi-state capitalist political-economic habitus such as that of present-day Russia, for however unilikely-ly nose-to-the-grindstone-ism is ever to flourish again, there is surely no polity on the globe in which it is less unlikely again to flourish than the U.S.A.—this, of course, because nose-to-the-grindstone-ism is after all inextricably associated with free-market capitalism—nay, would be completely unthinkable without free-market capitalism—and capitalism has famously and notoriously never been freer in its market, or rather, erm, marketedness, than in the United States.”  This hole is not wholly (groan) factitious, inasmuch as I myself am strongly inclined to suppose that nose-to-the-grindstone-ism really did reach its acme as a sustainable political-economic habitus here in the United States in the late nineteenth century when capitalism (to the extent that there is such a thing) was in its least regulated state, and much as I abhor capitalism (at least to the extent that it is shameless enough to embrace a belief in its own numinousness, to be proudly self-conscious of being capitalism with a merely typographically lowercase C), I am sufficiently hard-bitten as a student of metaphysics not to pooh-pooh the economic historians’ attribution of the parentage of nose-to-the-grindstone-ism to free-market capitalism as so much self-interested plutocratic twaddle.  And yet I am also sufficiently hard-bitten as a student of history in a certain broad, nebulous, and, above all, backward-looking (a.k.a. retrospective) sense to pooh-pooh the aforementioned attribution of parentage qua parentage; for qua such a student I would describe free-market capitalism vis-à-vis nose-to-the-grindstone-ism rather as a top-notch midwife (or, perhaps, rather still [for I am after all pooh-poohing here, and midwives and home-birthing are all the rage nowadays], as a top-notch indisputably male obstetrician of the old school [and so incessantly swearing, smoking during deliveries, nipping liberal lashings of hooch in between them etc.]).  This is to say, and more specifically quasi-concede, that while the politico-econo-c****ral conditions that prevailed in the United States in the late nineteenth century were perhaps more favorable or conducive to the flourishing of nose-to-the-grindstone-ism than the prevailing politico-econo-c****ral conditions in the U.S. or any other country in any earlier or succeeding mini-epoch, it is utterly wrongheaded to suppose that nose-to-the-grindstone-ism originated in the U.S. of that mini-epoch as a consequence of that polity-cum-mini epoch’s unprecedentedly free free-market capitalism, or even that nose-to-the-grindstone-ism sprang from the loins of some less full(y) fledged version of free-market capitalism (e.g., and effectively i.e., that of James Watt and co.’s late eighteenth-century Britain) and subsequently grew to maturity and efflorescence in lock-step with the ever-improving fortunes of its progenitor.  For in the first place there is more than one bullet-vector along which to cross-section a cat, and the bullet-vector principally traversing the organs appertaining to free-market capitalism in the cat that is the United States in the late nineteenth century is not necessarily the one that takes in the largest proportion of the animal’s total length or mass.  To my mind, a much more capacious vector for such a cross-section of that animal has been supplied to us by the lawyer-turned-sociologist David Riesman, who in a book published in 1950—in other words, at the very height of old-school (albeit by then highly State-regulated) industrial capitalism, and just before the advent of the Rust Belt—succinctly if somewhat clunkily (because ungrammatically) termed the signal characteristic of the late nineteenth century U.S.’s exponents of nose-to-the-grindstone-ism inner-direction, a tendency to be governed by one’s own inner impulses rather than by external or outer impulses—whence his term for the antithesis of inner direction--“Outer direction?—no, other direction.  And by inner impulses Riesman most certainly did not mean impulses necessarily originating from within the individual; to the contrary, he believed that these impulses were generally derived from the individual’s formative experiences and most often specifically from principles inculcated in the very young individual by his or her parents.  The inner-directed individual (so Riesman) was directed from within only inasmuch as he or she did not adjust his or her aims, attitudes, and conduct to bring them into line with the aims and conduct of his or her immediate neighbors and contemporaries.  In short (so Riesman, mutatis verbis mutandis), in all aspects of his or her orientation to the world, the inner-directed individual was more or less the antithesis of a dedicated follower of fashion or trend-humper.  While a plurality or perhaps even a preponderance of Riesman’s cases in illustration of inner-direction hailed from the U.S. in the late nineteenth century, he emphatically did not regard the late nineteenth-century laissez-faire capitalist U.S. as the birthplace-cum-birth mini epoch of inner-direction; indeed, he traced ID as far back and away as to sixteenth-century central Europe, to a time-cum-place in which all polities and political economies were organized along decidedly feudal or pre-capitalist lines.  Now of course the early sixteenth century was the mini-epoch that witnessed the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, and of course there is an unbudgeable bit of orthodox sociology that maintains that the triumph of capitalism was an inexorable consequence of the Protestant Reformation’s introduction of monastic ascetisicm and routinization into the secular world, that Martin Luther was essentially the David to Hank Ford’s J. Christ, and to the extent that capitalism is defined by the habitus of those involved in its productive side qua producers, this bit of orthodox sociology is more or less spot on as far as I am (and probably also David Riesman was [for I am afraid the worthy gentleman has not been with us for some time]) concerned—in other words, I am willing to concede that inner- direction (a.k.a. nose-the-grindstone-ism) never would have flourished, never would have become the hegemonic habitus, at any historical moment in any portion of the Occident (hyper or otherwise), had the political-economic quasi-system known justly or otherwise as capitalism not afforded inner-directed types a means of simultaneously focusing like a laser on some pet project and making ends not only meet but also meat and meet2 (i.e., the archaic sense meaning fit, proper, suitable).  But of course chez capitalism the producer cannot simply produce as much as he likes on his hermetic lonesome in onanistic bliss without either drowning in his own exudations or running dry; and indeed it takes not two mere tangoers but three full-fledged thuringoers for any quasi-functioning capitalist quasi-system to quasi-function—in other words, in such a quasi-system, not only must there be a congeries of producers but also a congeries of consumers who absorb the producer’s products and circulators who move the producers’ products to the consumers.  From the point of view of a champion of inner-direction or nose-to-the-grindstone-ism, an ideal not-only-macroeconomic-but also macrogeographic arrangement is one in which producers have no intercourse or commerce with the consumers and circulators of their products and consume nothing more than they need to consume in order to keep producing; for from this point of view, the allure of the product to circulators and consumers is of no intrinsic interest, the product being either actually or potentially present as something to be developed and perfected for its own sake, as something worthy of being developed and perfected in its own right.  From this point of view, an automobile assembly line may be as worthy an object of a producer’s productive energies as a painting—or indeed even worthier of them, if the year of production is 1920 and the best one can hope to attain in the painting is an obsolete and therefore gratuitous photographic realism.  So as far as a lover of inner-direction is concerned, whether the producer in question is Beethoven or James Watt, Picasso or Henry Ford, the norm is very much that of the lonely artist or artisan toiling away in his workshop 24/7, 7/52, and engaging with the worlds of circulation and consumption only when he becomes so hungry that he has to write or phone for a delivery of pizza, sandwiches, or Chinese food, at which point it is a matter of sublime indifference to him whether the pizza in question hails from Domino’s, Papa John’s, or Pizza Hut; whether the sandwiches in question hail from Subway, Potbelly, or Quizno’s; whether the Chinese food in question is Cantonese, Szechuan, or Hunan in manner of preparation (or indeed, whether the source restaurant uses the traditional foodie-depreciated big-nose orthography or styles itself a Gwandong, Sichuan, or Xiang eatery).  He quasi-literally couldn’t give a fig about any of these considerations-cum-distinctions, because he is only incidentally a consumer, because he is interested in the pizza, sandwiches, or Chinese food merely as matter with which to stoke his stomach so that he can continue producing.  Consumers and circulators, on the other hand, very much do care about such considerations-cum-distinctions between and among products; indeed, it could be persuasively argued that en bloc they care principally about such considerations-cum-distinctions, and it is indisputable that en bloc they care much more about them than about such brute use-values as stomach-stoking.  To refine this analysis ever so slightly but obligatorily, the circulator is intrinsically and necessarily interested only in speed, or perhaps, rather, to be more precise and avoid confusion with the drug in one go, expediency, in making the products he is circulating move along more quickly and securely and in larger loads, so that he can reap larger and more frequent revenue-packets from their circulation.  In principle he is indifferent to whether he is circulating (in the nifty phraseology of a former U.S. president or his speechwriter) computer chips or potato chips as long as the chips in question are more widely available and can be shipped faster now than they used to be.  In practice he cares a great deal about the specific products (I am trying ever so desperately hard to stick to the p-word and avoid the c-word, for reasons that seem exigent even though they are as yet unclear) he is circulating and is keen to circulate an ever more diverse range of products and to be constantly introducing at least ostensibly new products into his product line.  He hankers for diversity because come what may, each of his circulating vessels must contain something before it sets off for its destination, and he cannot count on bumper crops of potato chips or computer chips each and every year, and he hankers for novelty because that is what the people at the other end of the circulation pipeline—namely, the consumers—hanker for above all else.  Of course, common sense of a very durable and by-no-means-to-be-sneezed at sort will argue that there is one thing that consumers desire more in a product than novelty, namely utility, or perhaps more precisely the facilitation of everyday living, and in asserting that consumers desire novelty above all else I by no means wish to reject this commonsensical line of thought outright, but rather to modify it in saying that at least chez a  pure consumer (i.e., somebody whose consumption is never merely a means of improving his life as a producer, e.g., through the acquisition of the latest model of a certain kind of machine-tool to be used in his widget-factory) in the not-so-very-long run utility or the facilitation of everyday living converges with and is absorbed by novelty.  To essay a case in point derived—most appositely, for reasons that will soon become clear—from the dawn of the so-called industrial revolution: a householder of the middle station who has just earned (or otherwise acquired) his first 10 disposable pounds (or 80 [?] or so dollars) and who has an old-fashioned open fireplace in his sitting-room is patently guided by considerations of everyday living-facilitation (and thrift [which can of course in turn be ascribed to a desire for greater comfort in the form of other comfort-giving commodities to be purchased with the money saved]) in laying out those 10 pounds autc. on a freestanding stove of the type designed by Dr. Franklin.  But once the stove has been up and running for, say, a few months, he (the householder, not Dr. Franklin), provided he has since acquired more disposable funds, will be on the lookout for other products to improve his creaturely domestic life—perhaps a set of those fancy new sash windows to replace the creaky and drafty old casement windows that he has been resentfully contending with since he bought the old half-timbered pile of wood and plaster.  And once this domestic improvement has been effected he will, as hinted in the immediately above square-bracketed parenthesis, be looking to make other such improvements—the addition of a kitchen garden, the acquisition of a sorrel-mare-and dog-cart, the deepening of the well-cum-upgrading of the pump, etc.  All of these improvements doubtless facilitate the everyday life of our householder and his household, but the facts, or, any rate, extreme likelihoods, that they are not absolutely essential to the maintenance of that household and that they are being effected in an entirely arbitrary sequence means that they should in all extreme likelihood be viewed principally as expressions of our householder’s craving for novelty and only secondarily as expressions of his craving for everyday life-facilitation; and corollarily, that one should in all extreme likelihood view the producers and circulators enabling these improvements principally as facilitators rather of novelty than of utility.  But even after conceding the partial redeemability of Franklin stoves, sash windows, etc. in the eyes of utility, one must acknowledge that a great many of the very-early industrial age’s star products were object-classes whose sole selling point was their novelty, their never-before-seen-ness, at least in the Occident (yes—hyper or otherwise)—viz. tulips, proper Chinese (or at least Chinese-looking) china, patterned silk fabrics, grotesquely shaped lapdogs, and the like.  And yet again, from a booster of inner direction-cum-nose to the grindstone-ism’s point of view, the utter otiosity of such products must yield shame of place to their statically hermetic autonomy, to the lamentable fact that while they undoubtedly drew upon the sedimented accretions of dozens of generations of dedicated, undoubtedly grindstone-sniffing Oriental (no—no, not hyper or otherwise, but rather hyper-exclusively) artisans, they did not exact an iota of ingenuity or resourcefulness from living producers, that they required nothing more than Bob and Suzy Tsingtao’s repetition of the same actions that they and their forebears had been performing for however many umpteen-thousand years our sorry age’s execrable mandatory Sinophilia exacts from me in tribute to the incomparably ingenious and virtuous Chinaperson’s all-around superiority to the ridiculously slow-witted yet irredeemably wicked and unsurpassably pernicious Westernperson.  And I submit that the hermetic autonomy of such products combined with the above-described assimilation of utility-craving into novelty-craving constitute(s) sufficient grounds for rejecting L, S, and B and with every impolite gesture in one’s arsenal (bad pun-cum-pocket Morrissey homage entirely intended) the whole K&C of the quasi-system known as free-market capitalism.  The orthodox mythology about this quasi-system holds that production has always (or at least since the off-casting of the shackles and blinders of the supposedly commercially-cum-industrially clueless feudal-agrarian system in ca. 1750) necessarily existed in an indissoluble and symbiotic bipartite relationship with consumption, a relationship governed by the authentic and immediately palpable needs of both parties, vis-à-vis which circulation is a mere mindless pack-mule or pimp neither able nor authorized to add so much as a literal two-cents’-worth of its own to the attendant series of transactions.  According to the logic of this mythology and via one of its favorite topoi, the consumer is plagued by mice owing to the inadequacy of the state-of-the-art mousetrap; the producer produces what he believes to be a better mousetrap than the state-of-the-art one; and the consumer, after purchasing and testing one of the producer’s mousetraps, either buys a hundred more of them, in which case the producer strives to produce an even better mousetrap, or refrains from buying a single further one, in which case the producer goes back to the so-called drawing board and redesigns his mousetrap from scratch, thereby coming up with one that is actually better, etc.  In reality, the consumer has never much cared about catching mice and has always been content to choke on mouse droppings (or drown in mice p*ss) provided that he or she is, was, or were surrounded by the latest knickknacks, gewgaws, gadgets, and doohickeys from the remotest circulation-accessible locales as he or she is, was, or were drawing his or her last mouse p*ss or sh*t-saturated breath.  Of course, the orthodox mythology affects to concede, capitalism has always been vulnerable to fads whipped up by the occasional cocaine-addled loose cannon-cum-rotten apple in the fundamentally indispensable and irreproachable domains of advertising and marketing—fads such as the mood ring, the pet rock, jelly shoes, and the tamagotchi—but (so the OM avers) these fads have always been mere marginal and economically trivial adscititious excrescences of the system; excrescences that could easily be lopped off and undoubtedly would be were the off-lopping worth the effort—as it patently is not, owing to the aforementioned marginality and economic triviality.  The truth is that owing to the sheer arithmetical minority of the sphere of production vis-à-vis the libidinously united spheres of circulation and consumption, fad-obsession was an essential attribute of the quasi-system of capitalism from the very beginning, when James Watt, Ben Franklin, Eli Whitney et al. were receiving a pittance of the Occident’s capital by comparison with the tens of millions (of their pounds and dollars, not ours) pouring into the coffers of the utterly unproductive, grindstone dust-allergic purveyors of Chinese fans, screens, and lapdogs; and that the mood ring, pet rock, jelly shoes, and (yes indeed-stroke-lest we forget) F****k, T****r, and U**r were or are but apotheoses of the original fad (or trend)-humping anti-genius or Ungeist of capitalism. “In destroying they –F ****k, T****r, and U**r—fulfill.”  To be sure, at numerous points along the way a serendipitous complementariness-cum-synchrony of the enlightenment-craving impulses of the sphere of production with the novelty-craving impulses of the spheres of circulation and consumption has eventuated in  well-nigh-universally permeating quality-of-life-improving innovations from the Franklin stove to the electric light bulb to the zip-fastener or zipper to the undisposable safety razor to the disposable safety razor.  And to be further sure, at numerous points along the way producers have benefited from so-called input or feedback from circulators and consumers, have actually had their attention drawn thereby to shortcomings in their products and consequently remedied those shortcomings.  But the official mythology’s cardinal notions that such so-called input or feedback constitutes an indispensable non-electric old-school torch to the backsides of producers—i.e., that in the absence of such so-called I/F Ben Franklin, Eli Whitney, Thomas Edison, et al. would simply have spent all their days picking at the respective apertures of their respective backsides—and that it (the so-called I/F) is bound to lead to everyday-life-improving changes in products; both these notions are, I say, pure poppycock in the non-proprietary sense (for there are surely few better examples of serendipitous complementariness-cum-synchrony of production of and with circulation-cum-consumption than Poppycock in the proprietary sense [although yet again the perdurance of the older Cracker Jack brand in the caramel and peanut-impacted teeth of its manifest and well-established inferiority to Poppycock points up the perversity of the whole gosh-damn quasi-system]).  The sad or not-so-sad truth-bearing-complements to these two mythemes are that 1) once a product has been designed and patented, its effective production—that is to say, its fabrication as something that actually exists in multiple incarnations (or inplastations, inlignations, autc.) in the world, its passage from the single quasi-Platonic Franklin Stove, electric light bulb, autc. to a gazillion countable Franklin Stoves, electric light bulbs, autc.—shifts from the control of the producer in a strong sense—from the person who actually thought up the dag-blasted thing, a person who generally, along with his investors, has the greatest material and libidinal stake in seeing the dag-blasted thing thrive in the world—to the control of hundreds, thousands, or even a semi-gazillion subproducers—the factory managers and workers, warehouse shipping clerks and dogsbodies, internal accountants and inspectors, et al.—each of whom, as his individual material and libidinal stake in the prosperity of the product is almost incalculably small, finds the prospect of that prosperity about as powerful an epipygial stimulus to diligence as a lighted Etruscan shrew fart; and consequently cannot be expected to work especially diligently at their contribution to the product’s production (TBS, they will work fairly diligently out of the fear of losing their principal source of income, but much less diligently than they would out of the hope of getting rich) and that 2) beyond a certain generally appallingly early stage in their lives in the so-called marketplace and in the quotidian existence of consumers, not only the infamously proverbial overwhelming majority but even the obscurely unproverbial virtual entirety of everyday-life improving products tend to become unamenable to substantial improvement qua everyday life-improvers, such that consumer input or feedback ceases to eventuate in a better Etruscan shrew-trap or what have you, or indeed and even more significantly from the producer’s material-cum-libidinous point of touch and desire, a more popular or more sellable Etruscan shrew-trap or what have you.  And yet, i.e., despite the virtual absence of any material incentive for the effective producers of all those well-established everyday-life improving products and the unimprovability of all those products, these products have got to continue to be made—for after all, it would surely be unreasonable to expect Bob and Suzy Shiraz et al. to learn how to shave with straight razors and button their trouser-flies and so forth just so Bob or Suzy Entrepreneur (I’m thinking here of genuinely enterprising entrepreneurs, not the fart-producing likes of Zuckerburg et al.) could go off and work on the grapheme oil-spill catcher or quantum dildo-quantifier or whatever product bids fair to be the next genuinely everyday-life improving product.  And yet, of course, Bob and Suzy Shiraz et al. demand novelty in everything they purchase; nothing appalls or disgusts them more than the notion of buying an electric light bulb or acoustic toothbrush or disposable safety razor that is in all respects identical to one they themselves might have purchased three years ago, let alone one their parents and grandparents might have purchased thirty years ago.  And so the producers of these well-established everyday-life-improving products are compelled to be constantly fiddling with them, to be making improvements in them that are either so trivial as to be unnoticeable by the consumer or that are not improvements at all but merely cosmetic changes—and all, of course, for ever-diminishing returns even for those at the top-of-the-chain-cum-reins of production—all the senior engineers, controlling stockholders, and boardroom executives.  And of course from the consumer’s point of view-cum-pocket, the principal effect of all this fiddling has been a gratuitous proliferation of superficial diversity on the shelves and racks at the supermarkets and special(i)ty stores.  One is no longer merely obliged to choose among a handful of competing brands of toothpaste, brands almost unabashedly advertising themselves as no better or worse than any of the others (one was never really hoodwinked into supposing Aqua Fresh offered anything beyond the pleasure of seeing three different colors on one’s toothbrush at a time, or Colgate the bracing austerity of an impenetrable white paste as against the gaudy translucent blue and red gels offered by Aim and Close-Up), but among double-handfuls of paste-varieties within brands, each of these varieties allegedly catering to a specific facet of oral-hygienic care—one of them to the whitening the teeth, another to the freshening of the breath, another to the controlling of cavities, and yet another to the off-staving of the build-up of tartar (in the non-ethnic [q.v., Lord willing]-cum-non-condimental sense).  In the light of the monomaniacal terms in which this departmentalization is couched in or on the tube-encasing boxes, one cannot help wondering if in using a paste dedicated to one facet, one will be exposing oneself to substandard care in all the others—wondering if, say, in order to acquire dazzlingly white teeth one must resign oneself to having a mouthful of cavities that will ultimately necessitate the extraction of all thirty-something of those dazzlers, or if in order to avoid cavities one must resign oneself to being fled from like Godzilla each time one dares to flash an open-lipped smile (whether the fleeing is principally owing to the sight of one’s turd-hued teeth or to the stench of one’s sewer-scented breath one tragically will never know).  But there are other lately hyper-diversified everyday life improving-products about which one need not wonder along such lines, inasmuch as one’s recent experience has proved that the purchase of the wrong line of a given brand can have palpable and even arguably disastrous everyday life-depreciating consequences.  I am thinking here first—on account of the intimacy of access to one’s own person vouchsafed to the product in question as properly used—of my experience with certain disposable razors produced by the Gillette brand of Proctor und Gamble (yes, I will name proprietary names, and not at all because I am hoping for a sack of propitiatory free stuff from the Proctor et Gamble corporation [although, to be sure, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a sack of sufficiently upmarket free stuff therefrom]).  In the old days—meaning, perhaps, as recently as the middle of the last decade—there were essentially three tiers of Gillette men’s razor (and no, I’m not the sort of bloke to use a woman’s razor just to make some sort of statement qua feminist-cum-consumer advocate; although I don’t doubt that the difference is almost invariably undetectable by a blind person)—Sensor, pivoting Good News, and non-pivoting Good News (having very probably not been “present at the” presumably mid-1980s “creation” of the Good News line even in a weak sense—i.e., as a decidedly post-pubescent regular male shaver on the lookout for innovations in shaving technology—I am unable to comment insightfully on the evangelical overtones of the line’s name).  From the Sensor—the highest-end of the three—one got the undeniably genuinely visceral pleasure of an extra-smooth shave and the undeniably genuine if unvisceral pleasure of holding onto a single razor-handle week after week and even conceivably year after year (although these handles, in being made of plastic rather than stainless steel, did tend to get a bit grotty after a few months) as one’s grandfather had done (although in my specific case this pleasure was somewhat attenuated by my never having seen my maternal grandfather shave with anything but an electric shaver and heard my paternal grandfather talk hyper-explicitly of shaving with disposable razors); pivoting Good News denied one both these pleasures while still getting the job done and retaining the Sensor’s pivoting razor-head and thereby saving one’s elbow a bit of labor, and non-pivoting Good News was indistinguishable from pivoting Good News apart from the eponymous elbow labor-saving pivot.  After a phase of principled and exorbitantly costly Sensor use in his late teens and early twenties (i.e., the early-to-middle 1990s), the present writer switched over to non-pivoting Good News on the grounds that as a member of the have-nots he must take the rough instead of the smooth as long as the smooth was substantially more expensive, and that (perhaps owing to his thitherto lifelong non-participation in team sports) he had never suffered from pitcher’s elbow.  And for at least a good full decade, the present writer got on quasi-literally super-famously with the Good News line, inasmuch as if he had been a paparazzo-mobbed celebrity during this period, many if not most of the photos then snapped of him would have included within its borders a Good News razor, whether in active use at the lavatory mirror or encased with its fellows in its cardboard wrapper on the kitchen counter during a grocery-unpacking session.  To be sure, he could have done without feeling every single hair follicle resiling in agony as each of the unlubricated twin blades passed over it, and he was too jaded a soul to rationalize away this agony as bracing, but as the whole tonsorial operation was unfailingly completable in the same five-to-seven-minutes as had been exacted by the Sensor and left his face as baby-monkey’s bum-smooth as it had done under the auspices of the more expensive shaver, he did not even feel entitled, much less obliged, to complain.  Then at some point not long after the dawn of the present decade, he noticed that although the price of the non-pivoting Good News-razor five-pack had been keeping pace with, if not overtaking, the rate of inflation, the quality of service delivered by the non-pivoting Good News razor had sharply—or, perhaps, rather, dully—declined; for in the first place, the experience of raking the twin-blades across one’s north-cheeks was not only agonizing but also alarming, in that one could not help suspecting from its abrasiveness—an abrasiveness less akin to the older GNR’s sandpaper-chamois rubdown than to a so-called Colombian facial (wherein, I should explain for the benefit of any unstreetwise [and therefore, was mir betrifft, DGR-trouncing] readers, one is dragged face-down and at walking speed along a tarmac surface)—that one was inflicting subcutaneous and therefore not only scarifying but also potentially gangrene-inducing damage to one’s puss; and in the second, and more material, place, the twin-blades had manifestly ceased to be capable of getting the job done, for at the end of the aforementioned five-to-seven minutes, one’s face was every bit as rough and prickly, as middle-aged monkey-bum-esque, as it had been before its up-lathering.  Sportingly, if one happened not to have any appointments on one’s calendar that day [for if one did, one stoically resigned oneself to explaining to one’s appointment-mates that one was going for the Don Johnson look, and hoping against hope that none of them would confuse Don Johnson with some smooth-faced partial namesake {e.g., my beloved Dr. Samuel J.}], one would re-up-lather and apply the razor for another five-to-seven-minute interval, only to end up as stubbly as before the previous attempt; then for a third such interval, and possibly even a fourth (by the end of which one would be beginning to suspect that one’s beard was actually getting thicker as indeed it probably was, what with its growth having effectively gone unchecked for a full half-hour) before resigning oneself to going unshaved for the day.  The whole ordeal was an exact tonsorial analogue to washing oneself with a bar of that joke-shop soap that despite being as white as ivory (and Ivory) left everything it touched as black as pitch (and also as Pitch, if perchance there is an unabashedly black soap of that proprietary name).  But after the first of these futile struggles with a single Good News shaver one sportingly gave Gillette, or, rather, P&G, the benefit of the doubt, surmising that one had alighted on a dud shaver that had slipped past the inspectors; but then the next shaver in the pack proved just as inefficacious, and so one sportingly (albeit teeth-grittingly) extended the radius of the doubt-benefit in the hope that one had alighted on a dud pack, and picked up another one—but no such luck—and so one affectedly sportingly surmised, or affected to surmise, that one had alighted on a bad batch of packs, and picked up a pack at a drugstore in a foreign ZIP-code, and so on, until at length (in two or more senses) one’s beard had assumed well-nigh Rasputinian dimensions, at which point one alacritously, albeit entirely figuratively, threw in the towel (for what with not having had a proper shave in months, one had no ready-to-hand literal towel to throw in) and resigned oneself to re-upgrading to Sensor.  But on returning to one’s shaver emporium of first resort and raising one’s eyes above the bottom row of the pegboard for the first time in a donkey’s decade, one was astonished and dismayed to see the nameword Sensor on none of the Gillette products depending from those loftier heights, and so one reflexively lowered one’s eyes to their old haunt, the bottom row, and was even more astonished and dismayed to see the nameword Sensor printed on a Gillette product that apart from the presence of that nameword and the absence of the old evangelical namewords was to all appearances exactly identical to the old Good News five-pack.  Was one dreaming?  Was one alternatively in one of those alternate (sic) universes in which all men (save oneself, of course, at least so far and last one had checked) sported eye-patches and green membra virilia?  One rubbed one’s eyes and took a discreet peek down under.  Es war kein Traum, und auch kein Augenklappenundgrüneschwänzeszenario.  And so, incorrigible sucker that one was, one gave the stinkin’ Proctor and Gamble corporation the benefit of the doubt yet again, and simultaneously gave the world’s first proprietarily named razor—viz. Occam’s, natch—a two-finger salute, in hoping against hope that this bottom-row Sensor was indeed a proper old-school Sensor in Good News’s undergarments rather than a degenerate new-school Good News in Sensor’s overgarments, that P&G had actually been inscrutably perverse enough to retrofit the Good News razor-handle with proper, self-lubricating, smooth-shaving Sensor blades rather than brazenly, straightforwardly a***holish enough to put a pair of  un-self-lubricating, un-depilative, Columbia-facial administering Good News blades and a Good News razor-handle in a wrapper retrofitted to display the nameword Sensor.  And naturally enough, a week or so later one once again found oneself Rasputin-bearded and standing back at the old drawing-pegboard and compelled this time to consider each of the higher-pegged Gillette products as a potential purchase—compelled, in other words, to select among a finite yet still proverbially dizzying array of Gillette products with names utterly unknown to him.  But the names were the least obnoxious of the unfamiliarities, for none of these products was available in packs of more than three units, each of these units flaunted at least five blades, and each of these blades cost at least a dollar-and-a half or slightly more than half of what a five-pack of old-school serviceable Good News shavers had cost one barely a year earlier.  But what choice did one have, being a confirmed abhorrer of beards, a man for whom beardiness was ten times closer to devilishness than cleanliness to godliness, a man who could never be convinced by the most esteemed etymologist in history that the orthographic propinquity of barba and barbarian was an historical accident?  And so one resigned oneself to living on lentils and water thenceforth and purchased a two-pack of one of those ghastly Mach-something-or-others.  Naturally one was expecting in exchange for such an exorbitant capital outlay a shaver that simply wiped away one’s beard while one slept and took out the bins/trashcans afterwards.  Instead one got an implement that was as heavy and unwieldy as a two-handed battle-axe and consequently exacted a thousand times more arm-labor than the any of the old-school Gillette shavers, pivoting or unpivoting, had ever done.  The quintet of blades seemed to do (barely) about as good and painless a job as the old-school Good-News pair had, but it was difficult to judge this quintet dispassionately, given that merely getting the dad-blamed object in which it or they was or were encased within reach of one’s stubble occasioned such overwhelming discomfort and fatigue on its own.  Confronted as he was at his emporium of first resort by this unenviably stark choice between tonsorial deadness-on-arrival and tonsorial pyrrhic semi-success, the present writer was impelled to venture to larger emporia, to the sorts of places that had entire aisles devoted to shaving equipment in general and Andre-the-giant-dwarfing shelf-columns devoted specifically to Gillette shaving equipment.  Finally, after a half-year’s experimentation with sundry shavers, blades, wordnames, and package-sizes, he arrived at a version of Gilletteism that proved just barely both tonsorially and financially viable—although to this day, some three years after his arrival at this half-a(*)**ed tonsorial solution, this pis se raser, he cannot peg it to a specific wordnamed Gillette product line.  He knows that the product must have the word sensitive displayed on its wrapper, and yet not every Gillette product labeled sensitive will do, for both some of the aforementioned battle-axes and new-school Good News reduxes (or reduces) are thus labeled, and he knows that so far a combination of the sensitive label with a smattering of light green on the blade-handle itself seems to betoken something both affordable and usable, and yet he is unable to make the leap from this seemingly dependable yet irritatingly vague combination of word and color to the unambiguous and more versatile wordname (versatile in, for example, being employable in sentences of the form Sirrah, pray hand me one of those five-packs of Gillette Wordnames [the reader must bear in mind that many of the present writer’s razor-emporia are sited in the sorts of neighborhoods in which everything pricier than own-brand toilet paper is kept behind the counter]) because the wordname seems to be different each time he has to make a new purchase.  As for the quality of the shave delivered by these partially light green-handled sensitive shavers, it is, to the best of his mind’s north-cheek’s recollection, at worst not much worse but certainly not a jot better than that of the shave he was afforded at a much more affordable price—viz. 75 cents per shaver as against two dollars per shaver—by the old-school Good News razor.  And all this misery has been inflicted on the present writer qua Bob Everyshaver merely for the sake of allowing the Proctor and Gamble corporation to keep the most niggling and tremulous of toeholds in the ultra-low (and ever-ultra-lower) prestige shaving equipment market.  So at least the present writer might have concluded in a semi-Whiggish vein had his Dasein as a consumer (i.e., Konsumentsdasein) been confined to the purchasing and utilizing of shaving equipment, if all along he had simply been able to procure every other amenity of quotidian existence by clapping his hands or wiggling his nose like some practitioner of the black arts in a 1960s sitcom.  But alas, his ineluctable experience of dozens of other consumer product-lines in recent years has led him to surmise that there may be even less salubrious, less redeemable motives at work in this gratuitous diversification in the sphere of production.  I am thinking here—and consequently, second, qua palpable and even arguably disastrous everyday life-depreciating consequence-inducing experience—of my recent history as a user of disposable ballpoint pens.  In the old days—again, not much more than a decade ago—I qua disposable ballpoint pen user would more often than not settle for the bottom-tier product—quasi-i.e., the transparent cum polygonal-shafted Bic or the opaque cum tapering cylinder-shafted Paper Mate.  I was not insensible of or to the charms of the more expensive disposable ballpoints—their easy-grip handles, their retractable tips, their much smoother rapport with the writing surface, and perhaps above all else their sturdier construction (many a woeful hour indeed did I spend picking bits of crushed budget-Bic-cum-Paper Mate shaft from the interior bottoms of my book-bags)—but in the light of the notorious misplaceability-cum-filichability of ballpoint pens I did not believe that these pricier models were worth the extra capital outlay.  In those days, I would buy a ten-pack of the budget pens and leave one or two of out of the ten lying about wherever I happened to expect to be again soon, such that until the moment, a year or two after the purchase, when the ink had run out of all five of the ten that had not run out on me, I always had a serviceable writing implement ready to hand.  The only attention-exacting tactical complication of this elegantly simple meta-scribal strategy was occasioned by the caps of the pens, which, on account of the afore-implied unretractability, had to be placed back atop the tips at the end of each writing-session, lest the (ahem) ball should dry out and consequently be alienated from the ink-reservoir, to which contact could be reestablished (and then only momentarily) only if one happened to be a smoker of the sort who always carried a lighter (as I was not, being a smoker of a sort who generally lit his cigarettes with whatever matchbooks he had been thoughtful enough to snatch from bar-top fishbowls during nights out [this because budget disposable lighters were scarcely less readily loseable and appreciably more expensive than budget disposable pens {incidentally, I cannot forbear from conjecturing, perhaps to the detriment of the seaworthiness of my argument, that the fact that the pens and the lighters shared a number-one manufacturer-cum-purveyor—namely, Bic—bespeaks some kind of deliberately intracorporationally engineered metacommercial ecosystem wherein and whereby ballpoint pen-users were compelled to be as dependent on smokers as flowering plants are on bees (and perhaps even vice-versa, although at the present moment a budget ballpoint-pen user’s smattering of small talk is striking me as a rather meager analogue to a hive-cell of honey)}]).  In any event (or perhaps, rather, at all events), imperfect though this meta-scribal strategy was, it was to its ultimately redeeming credit fairly painlessly routinizable within the Alltag of a regular ballpoint-pen user of negligible disposable income: though pens were often lost thanks to the user’s habitual negligence, there was never any need to whip the “gentle breeze blowing through” the user’s “bank account” constituted by the repercussions of the ten-pack purchase into a so-called gail-force wind by buying supplementary pens one at a time (and hence at a higher per-pen price), because each full-reservoir’d ten pack-pen that supplied each lost ten-pack pen’s place was always in good writing condition.  If pursued or implemented in the present day by the present writer, whose disposable income is if anything even more negligible than back in the Golden Age of Disposable Ballpoint Pens [this despite the fact that he is now both a full-time non-smoker and a virtually full-time night out-eschewer], such a meta-scribal strategy would not-especially slowly and most certainly surely end in his bankruptcy.  Why?  Why, almost self-evidently, because most if not all of the constituents of the budget ten-packs (supposing the budget ten-pack is even still issued) presumably would not be in good writing condition, or indeed in any sort of writing condition, long enough to earn their respective keeps.  You see, duct tape-gagged non-DGR, to a non gender-specific unit, each and every one of the budget ballpoint pens of the present features the defect of running dry after only one, or at most two, writing-sessions, be these writing-sessions ever so un-verbose, pithy, or laconic.  By this I mean neither that the pens’ ink reservoirs are shockingly punier than those of their forebears nor that the pens have seemingly picked up some condition analogous to hemophilia but that their ink simply stops flowing from the (ahem) shaft to the (ahem) ball.  “MMM-mm mm-mm-MMM mm mm-MMM-mm mm mm mm MMM mm mm.”  What’s that, non-DGR?  I’ll remove the duct-tape just long enough to allow you to repeat that utterance.  “Maybe it’s because you’re forgetting to put their caps back on.”  I see that I did well to gag you.  Obviously I have not been forgetting to put the caps of the pens back on because the resetting of the caps was an indispensable element of the old budget ballpoint strategy and consequently could not but have become a matter of habit by the time I first noticed the ludicrously premature up-drying.  “Goshdammit!” the non-DGR should have registered that I needs must have exclaimed at that necessarily bewildering and exasperating moment, “Here I am doing my bit, fulfilling my end of the bargain as it were, by conscientiously putting the cap back on after every use, and the goshdamn pen is still not cooperating.  What (in) the fabled name of Frank Finlayson’s f**k gives?”  What gave, and still gives to the this day, is, I conjecture, a willful act of spite, an exercise in targeted sadism, directed by the ballpoint pen-manufacturers at a certain segment of their customer-base—namely, the maximum thrift-oriented segment—whom they regarded and still regard with an explosive mixture of resentment, outrage, and contempt.  At some point a few years after the turn of the millennium the ballpoint pen-manufacturers evidently got so fed up with declining sales-revenues that they gave up on trying to win over their thrift-oriented customers and opted rather to punish them with all the subtlety of a cane-wielding snubbed panhandler.  “If,” the aggrieved manufacturers must have stroppily mused, “these cheapskates won’t have the common decency to upgrade to one of our mid-market models, we shall and will do them the condign bad turn of selling them pens that are unusable almost from the very beginning, pens in which only the bottom .0379% of the ink reservoir contains standard semi-liquid ink and the remaining 99.9621% is filled with bone-dry desiccated ink resin.”  Do I espy you surmounting the expressive restrictions of the gag via an all-too- eloquently skeptical eyebrow-arch, non-DGR?  Why, I ought to make sure you don’t get a second go at such supercilious eloquence by shaving both your eyebrows clean off—but I dare not and shan’t, for every nanometer of blade-keenness in my exorbitantly expensive unnamable Gillette sensitive shaver must be vouchsafed to the depilation of the subcilious sectors of my own face.  In any case, once you have duly considered the ironclad logic behind my imputation of such cussed maliciousness to the ballpoint executives, your eyebrows will doubtless be only too content to mind their respective places.  Consider, if you will, the only conceivable alternative explanations for the non-functionality of those umpteen-milliard pens.  Consider, first, the possibility that the manufacturers or their lackey boffins have simply failed to cinch the formula for ink that retains its liquescence and flows infallibly downwards in conformity with the law of gravity.  Given that they did cinch the formula at least four-fifths of a half-century century ago as evidenced by all the perfectly functioning budget ballpoints used by the present writer beginning in the late 1970s, this explanation can only be entertained as a corollary of the supposition that they have somehow forgotten the formula in the meantime.  Such intracorporational oblivion is undoubtedly possible because it is undoubtedly not unprecedented—the Egyptians’ inability to decipher their own hieroglyphic writing system for those semi-umpteen centuries between the arrival Alexander and the arrival of Napoleon is a handily notorious example of it.  And if the world is allowed to pursue its present course (a.k.a. Weltlauf), at least a milliard-and-a-half people now living will undoubtedly see examples aplenty of this phenomenon—perhaps most spectacularly, temporally proximately, and nevertheless perhaps ultimately felicitously, in the case of the artisanal (yes, the very same artisanal that is an inalienable metonym of the granola-slavering postpositional adjectival phrase handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation) body of knowledge requisite to maintaining and operating the earth-ball’s two great arsenals of nuclear weapons—by which I mean that I suspect that owing to the flagrant unsexiness of nuclear weapons in both the Hyperoccident and the Hypoccident since the pseudo-end of the Cold War, the global pool of Occidental boffins who know their way around a nuke has been both aging and dwindling for some years already.  But at least for the nonce, I believe we may safely trust that the ballpoint-pen industry has not been and will not be afflicted by such a case of collective proprietary amnesia, for although the present writer is the last (and perhaps only) person in the world to disparage any discipline or body of knowledge, however manifestly uncomplicated and intellectually untaxing, on the grounds that it isn’t [let alone ain’t] rocket science, he is only fain to conjecture that rocket science is at least a smidge more complicated and intellectually taxing than ballpoint-pen science, and that although in the Occident ballpoint pens have been only slightly more sexy than nuclear weapons of late, the formula for a functioning budget ballpoint pen is simple and intellectually untaxing enough to be kept afloat and intact in the respective ballpoint pen manufacturing companies’ respective corporate memory banks by a fairly small pool of fairly lazy and fairly stupid boffins.  What, then, are we to make of and do with the second conceivable alternative explanation of the recent-to-present non-functionality of budget ballpoint pens—viz. that the manufacturers are simply trying to increase their respective profit margins by cutting costs?  On the non-proprietary north-face of it, this explanation is more plausible.  After all, cutting costs necessitates using cheaper materials, which may very well seem to necessitate resigning oneself to turning out shoddier products.  But cutting costs even more fundamentally necessitates not simply throwing away productive materials, and that is exactly what the ballpoint pen-manufacturers are doing by producing all these milliards of stillborn pens.  If the ballpoint pen-makers were seriously interested in increasing profit margins and cutting costs, they would plough all the dye and polyethylene goo they are now squandering on all those stillborn pens into accelerated production of the at-least-slightly-usable pens that they are now selling as their mid-market models, thereby spending less on production per mid-market pen and allowing themselves to lower the price of these models, thereby encouraging their thrift-oriented customers to buy them repeatedly in bulk, and thereby accruing more generous profit margins.  Their present practice, by contrast, at best encourages their thrift-oriented customers eventually to upgrade to the mid-market model as cautiously and ad hockishly as possible–one grossly overpriced one-pack at a time.  At worst, yet perhaps most typical, it drives these customers (inter alia, the present writer) to renounce writing by hand virtually altogether, even in contexts wherein it is appreciably more convenient than typing.  (Here I incidentally wish to bud-nip any Whiggish impulse to toss the manufacturers a non-proprietary lifesaver in the form of the ascription of their declining revenues to the rise of the various keyboard-equipped phones, tablets, and pads that have emerged in the past decade-and-a-half by pointing out to the would-be tosser that writing by hand was technologically eclipsed as anciently as sevenscore and nine years ago with the invention of the typewriter, and that decades before the advent of word-processing software, the world was already teeming with people who preferred to type even their grocery lists and most intimate billets doux.)  What is worse, the latter-day efflorescence of producer-evinced sadism would appear not to be confined to the bottom end of the consumer-product scale and indeed to be no less pronounced towards the opposite end thereof, chez upmarket products with ticket-prices upwards of several-thousand dollars.  Admittedly the present writer, being stinking poor, cannot boast of having a very extensive acquaintance with such products, and indeed qua consumer thereof in the strong sense, the sense of being a sole user if not outright sole proprietor thereof, he is a virtual ignoramus, but qua consumer in a weaker sense, the sense of being a non-sole user of such products as are assigned to a community of users, he flatters himself he knows a hawk from a handsaw—not that any of the products in question have been hawks or handsaws (prime specimens of either of which can doubtless both fetch prices upwards of several thousand dollars and be employed in collective settings [e.g.., bird of prey-managing master classes and carpentry surgeries]), and indeed the most saliently vexing of them is about as un hawk like-cum-un handsaw like an object as one can imagine, viz. the post-millennial digital photocopying machine, specifically the one that I have had to contend with business-day in and business- day out at my place of work since about the dawn of the present decade.  Of course photocopying machines have been almost a byword for unreliability since, well, presumably long before the early 1990s David Letterman joke about the one with the built-in (or probably rather, built-on) Out of Order sign, and the reader, gagged non-DG or otherwise, doubtless being no less conversant with this mytheme than the present writer, doubtless presumes that I am on the point of simply slathering a fundamentally gratuitous and redundant, albeit much more up-market, bilious descriptive layer onto my previous bilious description of the non-workings of the post-millennial budget ballpoint pen (which is, after all, at least in terms of the two engines’ shared purported function—viz. the propagation of the ocularly absorbed word—a sort of humble cousin of the photocopy machine, much as the tiniest marmoset is a humble cousin of the most hulking gorilla [vis-à-vis their not only purported but demonstrated shared functions of poo-flinging, public onanising, etc., natch]), that I am about to launch into a crapulous philippic against stillborn toner cartridges, toner-delivery mechanisms, paper-shuttling mechanisms, etc.  But few if any presumptions could be wider of the mark of their presumptees than this one, for the vice of the state-of-the-art (or perhaps rather, in the light of what we or you lot will presently see, hyper-art) photocopier that I am about to decry is in fact the hyperantithesis of the deliberate shoddiness of construction that I have decried in the state-of-the art (or, certainly rather, in the light of which we or yinz have already seen, anti-art) budget ballpoint, ineluctably inalienable as it seems to be from manufacturing specifications that are altogether too refined, self-preservative, and self-preening for the user’s comfort and sanity.  We may term this vice Pygmalionism, inasmuch as it seems to arise from producers’ excessive enamorment with their own products. This vice is a kind of a kind of cyborgically embodied pedantic valetudinarianism manifested in the fact that the indisputably well-constructed machine (for after all, it has been up and running—or, rather, mostly sulking—for about seven years) refuses to do a dad-blamed thing until the would-be user has assured it that each and every one of its real or factitious desiderata, however irrelevant to the user-desired result it may be, has been supplied.  Thus, if you put a ream of plain white 8-1/2”-by-11” (Brits: read ~A5) paper into one of its half-dozen trays, it will insist on your “confirming” that this is what you have just done before it slides the tray into commission with all the alacrity of a sedated slug—this as if it had been physically possible for you to insert an 800-1/2”-by-1,100”-sized ream, or as if you might have just tried to slip in an 8-1/2”-by 11” unsliced tofu loaf, or as if, on the offest of off chances you had put in a ream of black paper, the copier, despite being unequipped with a toner cartridge filled with pulverized White-Out (Brits: read Tipp-Ex), could have done sweet Fanny Adams towards making the copies it produced a jot more readable.  If you place any document a nanometer smaller than an 8-1/2”-by-11” sheet of paper on its flatbed scanner, it will whinge that it doesn’t “recognize the size of the document”; whereupon you will have to trick it by placing an 8-1/2”-by-11” paper-sheet behind the document.  If you are enough of an egomaniac to leave it without something to do for more than half a minute, it petulantly queries you whether you wish “to continue working or not” and perversely—at least for a purportedly insentient machine—insists on your replying “Yes” before being obliging enough to do a further microjoule of work itself.  And if you are unfortunate enough to have need of its services when it is in so-called energy saver mode—why, then, you had best have brought along a book of Old Testament-al dimensions, for you will have geological eons of time on your hands as you wait for the dad-blamed thing to rouse itself from its pedantic slumbers.  But don’t you dare get at all deeply absorbed in your reading of that book, lest you miss the crucial ninety-second interval between the machine’s revival and its descent back into somnolence in protest of what it will perceive as your flagrant lack of interest in pushing its buttons.  In sadistic substandard construction and sadistic superstandard function, as exemplified by the bottom-of-the line ballpoint pen and the top-of-the-line digital photocopier, respectively, the critique of capitalism’s most celebrated topos—that of the human being made utterly subservient to the machine ostensibly conceived and built to serve him, the topos compellingly literalized in early cinema by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis [iconic image: young Frederson crucified to the hands of the clock-face-like doohickey of unexplained purpose] and Charles Chaplin’s Modern Times [iconic image: Charlie bodily implicated in the cogs of the assembly line-mechanism]–has come full circle or been stood on its head (take your pick, consumer).  In the old topos, it was the human subject qua implement of production who suffered; now the victim is the human subject qua implement of consumption.  In the old topos, the machine, having been transformed into a subject, was the direct inflictor of the suffering; now it is at best a proxy subject, a mighty scourge or cat-o’-nine milliard tails wielded by the frustrated and by-now terminally insatiable subjective cravings of the producer—not, to be sure, qua inner-directed would-be inventor of a better Etruscan shrew-trap but qua abject dyed-in-the-wool worshiper of exchange value. Towards the bottom of the productive hierarchy, the end occupied by the ballpoint-pen and razor manufacturers, the producer, ashamed of his wares merely in virtue of their ultra-low price tag, deliberately and wastefully foists on the consumer products that fall far short of the most advanced technical standards; at the upper end, the end occupied by the digital photocopier-manufacturer, the producer, besotted as he is by the ultra-high price tag of his product, convinces himself that it is destined to replace sliced bread (or tofu) as the thing than which nothing can ever be greater, and is hell-bent on “taking” each and every individual consumer “with him” by forcing him or her to lavish more time on the product’s use than he (the producer) devoted to its production. The whole Dag-blasted state of affairs is “far, far worse than Detroit” at any point before the turn of the millennium.  Penultimate if not necessarily second-least in the present quasi-digression, I must make depreciatory and deprecatory mention of a phenomenon that is visible mainly if not exclusively at the most prestigious strata of production—viz. schematic or meta-conceptual regressiveness.  By this I mean the atrophying or even outright disappearance of certain basal and essential features of a product in concurrence with the addition, proliferation, and refinement of more superficial and less essential features—i.e., in terms of the most familiar and vivid metaphorical vehicle, the rotting of the trunk and roots of the tree despite the (presumably temporary) fecundity of its branches, leaves, and flowers.  The present writer is afflicted by this phenomenon each and every day of his existence in the domain of that existence most vital to his perdurance qua present writer in the fullest sense (i.e., qua present writer present in the present setting)—viz. his transactions with his own and others’ personal computers.  While there is scarcely any module or aspect of these transactions that is not without its rotten trunk-cum-root-rooted woes—for example, his contentions with the ever-so-cramped horizontal axis of Gmail’s lists (wherein “Important Things—A-O”, “Important Things—P-Z,” and “Important Thing-like Non-Things” become indistinguishable from one another by all being abbreviated “Important Thi”)–it is undoubtedly the Windows 7 operating system that occasions him the most Alltag-disrupting of these woes.  Windows 7 undoubtedly looks much nicer than any earlier Windows operating system and probably at least a smidge nicer than any earlier personal-computer operating system full-stop (not that I have ever been the sort to squander precious navel lint-removing time on comparing the aesthetics-cum-ergonomics of computer operating systems); and indeed, the present writer would perhaps expatiate on these superiorities until the start of the bovine homecoming dance were he not fully sensible of what a trifling bean-hillock they collectively amount to beside the mighty Everest of hoit induced in his organism by Windows 7’s shortcomings, shortcomings that are most aggravating precisely because they had been surmounted in earlier versions of the OS.  Wireless networking via Windows 7 is a virtual impossibility for the present writer, even though he owns a wireless modem, because within a half an hour of establishing his wireless connection he loses it (i.e., the connection, not his self-control—though since the five hundredth-or-so occurrence he has tended to lose that as well) and is impelled to seek succor from the Windows robət troubleshooter, which, after gratuitously cycling through a dozen other possible explanations for the problem over the course of a half-dozen minutes, invariably concludes that his “wireless network adaptor needs resetting” and reports that it is resetting that selfsame WNA, whereupon working order is restored for another whopping half-hour, whereupon the whole troubleshooting do-si-do has to be gone through yet again.  In vain has the present writer searched for some means of fixing the problem once and for all and permanently circumventing the troubleshooter’s intervention—in vain because all the inline sources, whether Microsoft-sponsored or independent—that make mention of the problem of a shaky wireless connection simply explain it away as an instance of “a wireless network adaptor in need of resetting” and refer the user to the troubleshooter.  These sources all seem to regard the need for resetting as something that simply and ineluctably happens to a wireless network adaptor in the course of its use, after a fashion not merely analogous to but exactly consubstantial with the coarsely physical process whereby the filter on an air conditioner or clothes-dryer becomes clotted with dust or lint.  To not one of these sources has it seemed to have occurred that a wireless network adaptor, however hard a piece of hardware it may be, is after all a component whose functioning, inasmuch as it can be restored by an operating system’s robət troubleshooter, is in the last instance governed by software—in other words ultimately by verbal instructions on what it is to do, and that in consequence the malfunction must be attributed to the operating system’s delivery of inadequate or erroneous instructions to the component, and in further consequence it is ultimately up to the operating system’s developers rather than to its users to fix the glitch.  If these developers simply can’t be a(*)*(*)ed to fix it because it afflicts a portion of the personal-computer using mobility too poorly heeled to give a rat’s a(*)*(*) about—viz. those running the antepenultimate version of so naff an operating system as Windows on machines whose exact human contemporaries are already whining for their fifth I-p***e or C*****b**k, fine—or, if not quite fine, at least s***ty in a completely familiar way—but the universal maintenance of the pretense, or perhaps rather gormless Gerald Ford-esque presumption, that there is no such thing as a software-induced wireless network adaptor malfunction, is, to say the least, either extremely irksome or not only extremely irksome but extremely creepy.  But at least eo ipso this malfunction is at least comparatively bearable in centering on an element or aspect of so-called information technology that has been in vigorous play only since the dawn of the present millennium and around which there has meanwhile gathered a sort of halo or Oort cloud of received imprecation.  Dans nos jours, one is expected to expect wireless connections of each and every sort to c**p out on one for some never-to-be-explained reason, and while there is certainly no excuse for such out-c**ping, insofar as there is no ante-millennial precedent for general consumer-end acquiescence thereunto (one can hardly imagine, for example, the multi-million-strong legion of Model T-drivers equably coping with a breakdown every five miles by adding water to their Tin Lizzies’ to-all-appearances brimful and leak-free radiators just because their user’s manuals instructed them to perform such a to-all-appearances utterly gratuitous ritual), the shakiness of wireless networks, in being a problem that has yet to be even provisionally solved at a so-called macro level, does not pose a so-called existential threat to the Whiggish worldview, which can doughtily cope with the deceleration of progress even to a complete standstill on the metaphysically unchallengeable grounds that the mighty all-redeeming breakthrough is just around the corner.  To be sure, earlier versions of Windows dealt with local wireless networking more capably than Windows 7, but the Whig’s withers are unwrung by Windows 7’s incapable handling of local wireless networking because wireless networking tout court-stroke-across the board has yet to be consigned en bloc to what we may term the anti-pantheon of de facto simple machines, to the assortment of technologies that we have come, however irrationally, to expect to behave as predictably as the wheel, inclined plane, etc.   The two bugs in Windows 7 that I am about to animadvert on, on the other hand, do pose an existential threat to the Whiggish worldview in marking a regression in Windows’(s) functionality to pre-millennial levels and thereby constituting a regurgitation-cum-expulsion of certain technologies from the just-mentioned anti-pantheon.  The less irksome and Alltag-thwarting, if slightly more spectacular, of the bugs is 7’s tendency to freeze—a tendency, in other words, not to register any of the user’s mouse or keyboard-delivered instructions.  The user clicks on an icon-button, and the icon button fails to register the click; he or she tries to turn the arrow cursor into a typing cursor, and it obdurately remains an arrow—i.e., it fails even do him or her the bare-bones courtesy of changing into the rotating hourglass’s successor, the so (by certain of the present writer’s fellow users [for obviously he cannot be a(*)*(*)ed to look up its official name])-called whirling doughnut or wheel of death.  The present writer can scarcely remember the last pre Windows-7 time he had to contend with such impertinent catatonia from a computer operating system, but presumably it was at some moment to the fore of the introduction of the Windows task manager way back in…well, ’95, assuming the correspondence was no mere coincidence (for the single digit-postfixed  Windows 7 has thrown all such chronogenetic assumptions into confusion) and Gill Bates &co. were running a reasonably tight ship by then.  The significance of the task manager qua allayer of the user’s anxiety or frustration or anxiety-cum-frustration can scarcely be overestimated; for however little the TM was (or is) typically able to do towards extricating the user from his or her plight short of recommending ending the process wherein the plight is sited (and thereby more often than not effectively recommending his or her committing to the virtual flames every character or pixel of what he or she has been working on over the course of the previous several-dozen hours), it (in salutary contrast to the above-dwelt-upon robət troubleshooter) always gave (and gives) the user the sense that the operating system was (and is) present as a sort of fellow-subject trying to do something, that it has not simply packed up and shuffled off to Buffalo (or perhaps rather Seattle) without so much as a BYL.  And at least in the old days (i.e., the days between the advent of Windows 95 and the advent of Windows 7) any failure of the task manager to yield to the usual three key-actuated summons spelled a calamity chez one’s machine that was far too deep-seated and organic to be remedied by a simple reboot.  Why, I remember with particularly acute pathos a particularly baleful moment at my place of work back in ’07 or ’08, when my trusty old [consult paper files at place of work for computer model number, to omit which would be tantamount to the withholding of a mention of a Betamax videotape recorder or Wizard personal organizer qua guaranteed elicitor of thigh-slapping laughter at my red-nosed, trouser-dropping Luddite’s expense] had been attacked by a particularly virulent and peremptory strain of so-called malware and required a partially non-remote intervention by the IT personnel; a moment when the onsite component of that intervention, a taciturn, hard-bitten toothpick-chomping, pocket protector-sporting quinquagenarean bloke of the oldest of old IT schools, having just chinned the mouthpiece of my [consult workplace desktop phone for model number qua elicitor of doubly raucous version of thigh-slapping outburst (doubly raucous because ten years on, the corded phone in question is still my phone of first workplace resort {and second resort overall})] desktop phone, calmly but decidedly grimly reported to his colleague down the line-cum-stairs, “I can’t even start the task manager”; a moment that could not but immediately put me in mind of the final chilling seconds of that darkest of dark comedies, Werner Herzog’s 1977 film Stroszeck, when a rural policeman or state trooper likewise stymied by the implacably, sublimely unholy misbegotten union of man’s artifice and nature’s gormlessness intones, “We can’t stop the dancing chicken” into his walkie-talkie.  But the Windows 7 task manager is no longer the task manager of that hard-bitten ultra-old-school IT bloke (or, indeed, of the present writer’s former, 35-or-36-year-old, self).  No: under the ultra-shabby auspices of Windows 7 you will almost diurnally find yourself pressing Control + Alt + Delete repeatedly and insistently enough to keep the three involved digits [in the present writer’s case the index and ring fingers of his left hand and the index finger of his right] reflexively twitching in waltz time for a fortnight after you give up on the so-called shortcut without eliciting an appearance from the old tee-em.  The non-appearance never means that anything is seriously wrong with your machine or any application running on it, but it almost always does mean that you can kiss goodbye to any hope you may have had of devoting the succeeding twenty minutes or so of your life to anything other than waiting for your computer to reboot and for all umpteen-hundred of its now-indispensable bits of preliminary-establishing software to snap back into gear.  But system crashes of this sort—crashes that have essentially the same phenomenal texture as a city-center traffic jam and would seem to arise from exactly analogous and partly consubstantial causes—are at least not utterly unprecedented—rare indeed, but not utterly unprecedented—in the present writer’s experience in the pseudo-era of post-DOS WYSIWYG personal computing.  Amazingly enough Windows 7 is also prone to a kind of crash that the present writer cannot recall having encountered since the early 1980s and his transactions with that generation and market-level of machines known not as personal but home computers—the Commodore 64, TI 99-4A, Atari 800XL et a very small cetera—a generation and market-level of machines distinctive in virtue of lacking an integrated monitor and therefore needing to be plugged into a conventional television set.  Associated with these machines were certain magazines that featured line-by-line printouts of the code for arcade game-knockoffs of the publishers’ own invention, knockoffs that users such as the present writer would then laboriously type into their machines over the course of an entire weekend afternoon and then attempt to run on those selfsame machines.  Typically one would only have gotten as far as having the game’s backdrop—a two-dimensional Lego-ized depiction of an ant-farm, coalmine (yes, yes, yes—proleptic shades of M***c**ft), abattoir, or what have you—on screen and taking a purposive jab at some bit of the backdrop with one’s joystick-actuated ant or miner or butcher when everything would stop happening, when one’s television would effectively simply become a frame for a pixellated still photograph (not that there had been a great deal going on within that frame beforehand)—this, naturally, because in the tedium of all the hours of typage one had allowed a fatal, machine-nonplussing typo to creep in.  I am describing my experience of this very minor episode of a very minor byway of information-technological history so circumstantially—albeit much less circumstantially than is my wont across the descriptive board—not out of anything like nostalgia–for I feel nothing but the most searing regret in connection with all those dozens or perhaps even hundreds of unpaid data-entry hours—but rather out of a desire to bring home to the reader a sense of the ultra-primitive and laughably slapdash material conditions under which the strong freeze or hard crash was most recently suffered as a matter of course.  We are after all forever being told by our sub-simian technophile masters that the humblest computerized toaster of today is umpteen-quadrillion times more powerful (whatever that means) than Deep Blue-to-the-power-of-the NASA computers that guided Mr. Armstrong &co. to the moon.  If such is truly the case, then surely we have the right to expect the average personal computer of today to avoid the sorts of c**k-ups that the sub-personal computers of a (human) generation-and-a-half ago lapsed into only when their otherwise robust coding instructions were corrupted by the digital (in the ultra old-school pre-digital sense) ineptitude of mere tots with barely enough knowledge of BASIC to run an endlessly looping “Hello [or, in more historically accurate phraseology, Fuck You] World” queue.  And yet it is a c**k-up of one of these selfsame sorts that I must contend with virtually every time I run the newest version of Microsoft Word under Windows 7, on each of which occasions an active window within which I a have an active document open can be virtually guaranteed to turn into a cursor-inaccessible so-called screen shot at least once.  Admittedly, if bizarrely, one can bring such a window back to cursor-responsive life by simply activating and then minimizing another window, but why should one be expected to perform such an eldritch ritual—a ritual less reminiscent of such wholesome analogue-era pis-allers as thumping the side of a television set with an inefficacious horizontal or vertical hold than of such kooky perennial old-wivesish superstitions as crushing eggshells to prevent witches from using them as boats—at all?  And worst of all, Windows 7 is prone to a certain particularly vexatious bug that I cannot for the L of M recall having been harassed by even in the quasi-pre-Cambrian jungle of early-1980s home-computerdom, a bug whose pandemic prevalence makes a mockery of the very notion of the computer as the dedicated agent-cum-facilitator of a continuation of a paper and filing cabinet-centered modus vivendi by other means, the notion onto which our entire system of life has long since shifted its very moorings.  I am referring here to W7’s ever-so-laggardly refreshment of its…how do you say?...directory listings or temporal file hierarchy or whatever the industry cum company-endorsed term is for the bit of directory-governing code that allows the user to see an up-to-date list of files in a given folder; such that after revising and saving a file labeled Bob Fockkuck at 7:52 a.m. on July 25, 2017 he or she can subsequently count on seeing that up-to-date version of Bob Fuckuck represented as the most recent version of Bob Fockcuck and on not seeing the previously revised version—a version dating from, say, 8:42 p.m. on January 17, 2015—at the top of the “Date Modified” queue.  This is something that the user can by no means count on under the auspices of Windows 7; and, indeed, quite often he or she must simply take it on faith that some beneficent angel of a background operating-system process is keeping his or her files up-to-date, because no amount of waiting or clicking on “Refresh” in the “View” pull-down menu will compel the folder-window in question to put the most recent version of the document in question at the top of the list.  It quite simply is not to be endured.  And yet endured it must be by each and every man Jack, woman Jill, and trans, transitioning-or-gender queer Pat of a Windows 7 user (tho’ TBT, I can scarcely imagine anyone progressive enough to be trans, transitional or gender-queer’s settling for such an antediluvian, retrogressive operating system as Windows 7), inasmuch as amid the hundreds of Alltag-annihilating mandatory updates they or it have or has visited on us Windows 7 users each and every year, Microsoft has or have not seen fit to introduce a so-called patch for this Weltall–annihilating glitch.  As surely as the sight of the full moon does a lycanthrope this patch-omission must give us pause.  The axiomatically Whiggish apologist for Microsoft will doubtlessly conjecture that the glitch has not been repaired because it is quite simply and literally irreparable within the architecture of Windows 7 because that architecture is not designed to support instantaneous file hierarchy-refreshment–in other words, he or she will effectively argue that my metaphor of the efflorescent tree with rotten roots is inapplicable here because we are dealing with a completely different tree, a tree of completely separate plantation from the one constituted by DOS-through-Windows NT.  To this defense I would rejoin that it is no intelligible, let alone legitimate, defense at all, inasmuch as the architects of Windows 7, to the extent that they thought of themselves as ethically consubstantial with their counterparts in the world of so-called bricks and mortar, were duty-bound to reproduce all of the most taken-for-granted features of earlier operating systems in their blueprint for Windows 7.  The reason that they did not reproduce these features (at least so I conjecture) was that they were solely interested in achieving aesthetic-cum-ergonomic effects in Windows 7 and gave no thought to whether the means by which these effects could be most expeditiously achieved were squarable with the achievement of much more basal and much less blingy effects like instantaneous file hierarchy-refreshment.  To extend and expand the architectural quasi-metaphor to its requisite conceptual height and girth: these conjectural Windows 7 architects were like bricks and mortar-world architects who, upon discovering that ice (yes that ice—viz. solid hydrogen hyrdroxide) is a much more pliant and expressive medium for the production of architectural ornaments—Gothic revival-revival gargoyles, Corinthian leather textured-Corinthian capitals and whatnot—than reinforced concrete, proceed to have their most recently commissioned record-toppingly tall skyscraper, including each and every one of its foundation piles and load-bearing walls, made entirely out of ice.  So in short: while the impracticability of effecting the patch for instantaneous file hierarchy-refreshment is entirely plausible as an explanation for or of the omission of the patch, it is by no means redeemable as an excuse therefor, and accordingly if this explanation is the correct one, the omission by all rights ought to be regarded as a scandalous and prospectively ineffaceable black eye in or on Microsoft’s reputation as a vendor of even minimally functional software.  But inasmuch as even now it does up to a point take two mutually consenting parties to engage in the act of coition contentiously known as consumer capitalism—I say even now and up to a point in the light of all the latter-day wanton producer-inflicted sadism I have remarked in recently preceding paragraphs [sadism that I believe to be less in play in the domain of computer OS-dom on account of the still relatively high prestige quotient of PC-orientated IT]—the real or ultimate culprits of or for the aforesaid omission may in fact be the prevailing mass of Windows 7 users.  By this I mean that it is entirely conceivable and not altogether implausible that Windows 7 users have not complained about the omission sufficiently vociferously or in sufficiently large numbers to drive it up into the Microsoft bug-correction team’s Top 10 (or even Top 100) list of Windows 7 bugs to be corrected, and if such is the case, who can blame the team particularly censoriously for not having corrected it?  To be sure, qua artisans or craftspeople they ought to correct it solely out of professional pudeur, but qua producers-cum-businesspeople they have precious little, if any, incentive to do so.  And epipygially vexed to the point of ulceration by the omission though he is, the present writer concedes that inasmuch as he is most likely not the ideal casting choice to play Bob, Suzy, Jack, Jill, or Pat Windows 7-Everyuser (because he is most certainly not the ideal casting choice to play Bob, Suzy, Jack, Jill, or Pat present-day computer user tout court), he is most likely not entitled to assume that a substantial proportion of his fellow-Windows 7 users share his vexation with the omission.  For after all, in what capacity is the present writer most sorely epipygially vexed by the omission; in what capacity does he most keenly feel its unrelenting sheering of epidermal tissue from his fundament-cushions?  Why, essentially in the capacity of an archivist, a keeper of documents that must be sorted by age—in his case an age that already often exceeds that of the present chronological threshold for voting and that within a very few years (touch would [sic]) will often also exceed the chronological threshold for serving in the U.S. House of Representatives.  And while the accurate dating of archival documents was undoubtedly regarded as a categorical necessity by the virtual totality of the first-and-a-half human generation of users of personal computer operating systems, the users of DOS through Windows NT, because in one way or another they were all using their machines principally to track phenomena that developed over time—phenomena ranging from corporate budgets to software applications to genealogical charts to literary opera–this feature is quite conceivably not even regarded as the most trivial and dispensable of frills by the largest majority of users of such systems today.  After all, what is it that Bob, Suzy, Jack, Jill, or Pat Personal Computer Operating System User principally uses his, her, their, or its personal computing device—whether this be a desktop, a laptop, a s***t phone, or a t****t—for?  Why, for securing a rendezvous with his or her latest T***r-mediated f**k-buddy, plotting a travel route to that selfsame rendezvous, uploading s*lfies of himself or herself standing alongside some flash-in-the-pan pop star, downloading the latest version of Cow-Chip Gourmandizer—in short, engaging in activities of the most transient, ephemeral, evanescent nature; activities vis-à-vis which chronological accuracy is of no importance whatsoever because there is scarcely if ever any need to refer to any past occurring-or-originating phenomenon because in turn one is always moving relentlessly, unreflectively, and remorselessly into the future.
END OF PART ONE