Friday, January 17, 2003

Tu Bi'Shvat

Reuben Rubin
The Edge of the Olive Grove
From a classic Israeli art collection

Don't panic

Bloggerfight: Diane vs. Alisa, subject: "transfer".

current mood
Last colonialist standing courtrooms, the cheap and safe way:

Belgium amending law to enable Sharon trial

Pathetic. Dutroux affair, Congo, what the hell...

current mood

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

What Venomous Egg-Laying Mammal Are You
Personality Test

Since you asked, S., G. and G., T., K., A. and A., N., R. and P., here are
the basics:

1. English is my n[1 digit]-th language, I am not sure about the exact position. I have been using it on and off for the last >20 years, usually when I had no choice, and I don't claim I can write it any more than I can speak it. A decent grammar course is a permanent fixture among my good intentions. So why use it? Suggestions regarding other options of communicating with people of n[>1 digit] linguistic backgrounds simultaneously are welcome.

2. I live in Europe. Western Europe. Germany at the moment, but such things change quickly with me. Born in Russia. I am Jewish. Not an Israeli citizen. My Hebrew is negligible.

3. History. I started this some time ago, as some of you have noticed, and dropped it for a number of reasons. Quite contrary winterblog 0.2 begins on January 14, 2003. The content of the old posts is mostly deleted, but not the "placeholder" posts themselves. I plan to use them for link collections, miscellania or whatever. I'll link to noteworthy pages or posts one day.

4. Layout. Couldn't help myself, I didn't like the Blogger stuff. Archive links: I don't trust the Blogger scripts, having observed their eccentricities on other people's blogs. The links you see are hard-coded HTML. Naturally, I don't intend to tweak the template every week, therefore I rely on my visitors' intelligence to determine whether an archive page is likely to exist. Comments on the layout are welcome, especially since I didn't do much testing on different browsers and operating systems.

5. Comments. Currently in experimental mode. If you want me to keep them, behave.

6. The name of the blog and my nickname. Let's call the combination an accident. I started out with the nursery rhyme, and someone told me that "Miranda" and "Mary" are both derived from the same Hebrew source. Alas, I didn't check at the time. And when I did, a short time ago, having signed comments all over the web with "Miranda" and my e-mail address, I was furious. "Miranda" is apparently not an original Shakesperean invention but a Spanish name that has been there long before "The Tempest" was written. (In case you are interested: the person who told me this is still alive and kicking. I decided that I deserve part of the blame.) In the meantime, I have reconciled myself with this centaurus: after all, it offers interesting interpretation options.

7. Why blog? Mostly because I'm tired of explaining one and the same things to different people. I realize that I am a rare species in the Jewish blogosphere. To name a crucial subject, I am not delighted by European Middle East politics, but I believe that it doesn't hurt to understand the details, the inner workings - and that a combination of self-victimization on all sides and undifferentiated "Euro-bashing" is, much as I sympathize with it in certain cases on emotional level, a poor approach. Not to overestimate the significance of internet communication, still, to the degree that it makes sense for mere mortals to occupy themselves with politics, it makes sense to do so with eyes opened. -- No, this won't be a dedicated political blog, I'm putting a lot of things I simply like or find interesting in it as well. Besides, the urge to leave traces on the web is irresistible ;)

Last but not least: thanks to everyone who encouraged me to take up blogging (again, wiser with experience). Whatever may lie in waiting for all of us, let's keep going as long as we can.

Geeks wanted

The big idea: instead of notoriously unreliable commenting systems, use one of the many free forum services availiable. Restriction: only the blog owner should be able to open new threads.
Special features:
1. the link to the respective thread on the blog should display the number of posts in the thread.
2. generate new threads (linking to the blog, needless to say) and the links to them automatically, each time a new post is made on the blog.

Quote of the week

As to the economy, Israel has only one advantage, the yiddishe kop, Jewish brainpower

If only... how do you say "an eye for bad design" in Yiddish?

my first thought: look, they are translating the "Thoughts of Chairman Mao" in Hebrew

if you don't see the second picture, it's because of the bandwith limits of my account

Third Person Singular

P.J. O'Rourke on The Education of Henry Adams

The Education of Henry Adams is not so much a criticism of politics as a catalogue of political feelings. Adams had a lot of them. Adams shared his feelings. He honored his feelings. He cared. Pertinent today, indeed, Adams's politics were as deeply felt as those of the deepest and most feeling of contemporary persons who feel things deeply


In Henry Adams, I discovered not only the prototype of the modern thinker but also someone who is more interesting: a viper-toothed, puling, supercilious crank, thwarted in ambition, aging gracelessly, mad at the cosmos, and ashamed of his own jejune ideals. He is nevertheless very dear to me. And he appears in my front-hall mirror.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Would-be quote of the month

Were the editorial policy less stingy:

Palestine-as-symbol has a protean nature, a capacity for expressing grievances wholly unrelated to the aspirations of the Palestinians themselves. In Northern Ireland last summer, for example, the Irish Republican Army raised the Palestinian flag over Republican strongholds. Why? Because for many around the world, this pennant now expresses simple . . .

For the record: from a preview of an article by Michael Scott Doran in Foreign Affairs, January/February 2003, title: Palestine, Iraq, and American Strategy. The dots are where the preview breaks off . . .

(Note to myself: check the university library in March; the time it takes to process new magazines, ugh...)

Philosopher and cultural gadfly Slavoj Zizek, on a mini-lecture tour, talks to Ha'aretz

For instance, one thing that fascinates me about Stalinism is the role played by the irrational. What bothers me is the cause of all the madness - the accusations, political trials - what purpose did it serve? These things cannot be explained as though they were part of a rational strategy. I have always been interested in the major difference that separates Nazi anti-Semitism and Stalinist persecution of enemies of the state.

Why did Stalinism always seek to extract confessions from its victims? Under Nazism, such confessions were meaningless - nobody tried to torture a Jew to extract from him a confession about being involved in a Jewish conspiracy.

The paradoxical reason for this difference is that this [obsession about confessions] was a vestige of enlightenment in Stalinism. The atrocity of Nazism is that it didn't need to prove anything - you are a Jew; so you are guilty. Under Stalinism, seemingly free confessions were made, this being a remnant of the belief that since people are free, confessions have to be obtained. Of course, they had to use torture to secure the confessions - the process was a total fraud. But I have always objected to the facile comparison that brands Stalinism and Nazism as two versions of the same totalitarian regime.

Does that mean you are saying liberal democracy should be viewed through the prism of Stalinism?

Definitely. But I am not saying that simply to reject liberal democracy. After all, it's far more pleasant to be in a society in which you can live and think and write. I think what's going on today in the name of a war on terrorism shows that liberal democracy is not the transparent, simple political system is it often understood to be. As Adorno and Horkheimer tried to show in the "Dialectic of Enlightenment," 20th century totalitarianism is not exactly a deviation from the enlightenment project. The seeds of totalitarianism are to be found in the project itself.

Your new book contains your most direct critique on liberal democracy.

This new book, and the one on Lenin.

Why now?

I believe it's the thing to do now. We should summon our courage and ask the fundamental question - `what is democracy today?' What are we really deciding? You in Israel, perhaps you are lucky in that on some level you still have a real choice to make. Perhaps a more radical version of a solution for the Palestinian problem would have meaning [as an expression of choice]. But in Europe?

Let's put it this way. The most important event of the past 20 or 30 years is the transition to a global economy, along with the dismantling of the social welfare state. People forget that when Communism collapsed, social democracy was dismantled in the West. What disappeared with these [systems] is the idea that social process isn't blind fate. Humanity, or a people, can somehow guide the process, and influence it. The sad result of this collapse is that we have returned to the concept of history as fate. Globalization is fate. You join it, or you're out of the game. In any event, there's no way to influence it.

So what do you propose as an alternative?

There's the puzzle. I would say, a new version of what was once called socialism. I think about this in modest terms. I like to portray myself as a fake magician - I have the hat, but I still don't have the rabbit. I'm not saying that there are answers - I'm just saying there will be huge problems. And then maybe we'll find the answers. Or we won't.

Monday, January 13, 2003

I mean, I did register a new blog, under a brilliant URL. Blogger doesn't believe me :(

current mood
Redux, blogwiser?

The Lockless Door

by Robert Frost

It went many years,
But at last came a knock,
And I though of the door
With no lock to lock.

I blew out the light,
I tip-toed the floor,
And raised both hands
In prayer to the door.

But the knock came again.
My window was wide;
I climbed on the sill
And descended outside.

Back over the sill
I bade a 'Come in'
To whatever the knock
At the door may have been.

So at a knock
I emptied my cage
To hide in the world
And alter with age.