Ruminations

My Medical Kidnapping, Moscow 1992

A few years back, I was surprised to read this story in my friend Nassim Taleb’s book, Antifragile. He and I had lots of long talks while traveling in the Middle East and also over plates of pickled vegetables and vodka in Kiev, and so this tale must have popped from my mouth one of those nights. Little did I expect it would…

View from Zamkova Gora.
A Journey to the Top of Zamkova Gora (Castle Hill)

On a recent stay in Kiev, I had an apartment near the top of Andrew’s Descent. St. Andrew’s dazzling green and white cupolas filled one window and another looked out over the neighborhood of Podil, the Dnieper, and beyond. While gazing across the river, I noticed a large hill nestled between neighborhoods, which clearly had a path atop it and…

MoscowDiorama-Large
Moscow Diorama – 1977

I love dioramas. The first I ever saw was at the Milwaukee Public Museum, a life-size buffalo herd. When I was a child, we would visit and there was a secret buzzer that you could press to make the rattlesnake tail rattle. I love the idea of losing oneself in another intricately crafted world. Dioramas bring us to places we…

Harold Scheub 2
Professor Harold Scheub

“If I am to tell you what my story means, I must tell you my story again.” – Nongenile Masithathu Zenani One of the biggest inspirations from my college years (1988-1992) was Professor Harold Scheub, of UW-Madison’s African Languages and Literature department. I took several of his classes, where I learned about the oral tradition, heroes, tricksters, and storytellers. When I graduated,…

Flag-Pins-USA-Russia
10 Things Americans Can Learn From Russians

Here are some (mainly whimsical) things that I think Americans would do well to emulate from their Slavic brothers and sisters. 1. Underground tunnels that let you cross the street without stoplights or the dangers of traffic. They are generally lined with kiosks selling flowers, food, shoes, tickets to cultural shows, lingerie, books, and other necessaries. These “переходи” are especially useful…

Screen Shot 2012-05-22 at 12.35.12 AM
Ukrainian National History Museum

Let’s stand for a moment outside this museum, which sits on a bluff overlooking Andreevsky’s Descent. To the right, over the trees, we can see the enchanting green cupolas of St. Andrews, and to the left, the cliffs that lead down the old city of Podil and the edge of a delightful little park, “Mosaic Cat Alley.” Although this museum…

KievGlobeMonument
Kreshatik versus Broadway

I love Broadway and I know it’s absurd to compare America’s and Ukraine’s “Main Street.” But anyway, here goes: 1. On Kreshatik, Kievans amble, even during rush hour; on Broadway, it’s generally frowned upon to promenade at less than a frenetic pace. 2. On Kreshatik, when the sun comes out, everyone grabs an ice cream cone. It’s a delight to…

yury-shevchuk_1
DDT – Rain

One of my favorite songs is Дождь (Rain), and so to pass the time one night (and because I had just finished reading an extraordinary book on translation), I tried my hand at bringing it into English. It’s by the Russian rock group DDT. The band was an underground music sensation during Soviet end-times (its members were watched by the KBG and its…

Parthenon2
Philosophy Tour Across Greece

Day 1: Athens – May 17 Our trip started with an exploration of the Pre-Socratics. The system that can work for some readers is writing a summary based on a fragment or two, as one merges one’s reading with Nietzsche’s overview (in his fabulous yet little known work “The Pre-Platonics”). This gave us at last a fleeting but useful basic…

Quote
Notable Quotations

“While we live, while we are among human beings, let us cultivate our humanity.” – Seneca “To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?” – Henry David Thoreau  “To possess another language is to possess another soul.” – Charlemagne “And one wants to offer thanks but there…

Latest Blog Posts

    • Winter, 2013: I have been feeling a little creatively deprived in Kiev during my last few visits, so I decided that I would reach out and try to make some connections in the theatrical community here. So I posted a job on eLance (now Upwork), stating that I was looking for…

      Read More

    • A few years back, I was surprised to read this story in my friend Nassim Taleb’s book, Antifragile. He and I had lots of long talks while traveling in the Middle East and also over plates of pickled vegetables and vodka in Kiev, and so this tale must have popped from my mouth…

      Read More

    • The holiest hill in all the world is the hallowed Holy Hill of Wisconsin. Upon it stands the famed Shrine of Mary, Mother of God. The twin towers of this cathedral are visible for miles around, and the devout flock there to admire the holiness of the church and the…

      Read More

    • I’m looking to hire someone with strong Final Cut Pro X and Mac systems skills to help edit a documentary. The film is about a secret Soviet antenna from the Cold War — the Russian Woodpecker — and one man’s attempt to understand its link to the Chernobyl disaster and…

      Read More

    • In The Fear of Insignificance, psychotherapist Carlo Strenger provides a compelling and far-reaching account of the illnesses of modern life. He shows how the human predicament described by Ernest Becker forty years ago has been compounded by technology, globalization, and the ascendance of escapist philosophies that militate against living an…

      Read More

    • Read More

    • “Books lift us out of the smallness of the present and into history, out of the smallness of ourselves and into humanity.” – Brian Jay Stanley Ten Great Books: – The Denial of Death, by Ernest Becker taught me why human individuals act and feel the way we do. – Escape from…

      Read More

    • The day I received my driver’s license, in the summer of 1985, I immediately set out on a pilgrimage I had been dreaming of for a long time: a visit to Walden Pond. I wanted to walk the same woods, amble from Thoreau’s cabin to the cool edge of the…

      Read More

    •   I’m planning a philosophical conclave in Venice on December 13th – 20th. Each morning will start with Italian lessons for those who want them, from 9am – 11am, run by a local. During lunch, we will have visiting scholars in art, philosophy, and history. Afternoons are for wandering and shivering…

      Read More

    • On a recent stay in Kiev, I had an apartment near the top of Andrew’s Descent. St. Andrew’s dazzling green and white cupolas filled one window and another looked out over the neighborhood of Podil, the Dnieper, and beyond. While gazing across the river, I noticed a large hill nestled…

      Read More

Twitter Updates