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Home The Feuilleton of MilSan and MikWag
The Feuilleton of MilSan and MikWag

Corn-pone News Network

Corn-pone News Network


You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is."
Mark Twain, Corn-pone Opinions (1900)

New York. CNN headquarters. April 2010.

Captain Fareed R. Zakaria is in the studio, showboating along. His eyes sparkle with animation and a smile undimmed by the flickering ratings at CNN plays upon his lips.

His paddlewheeler “The GPS” is churning its way upstream, steady as she goes, belching the usual white smoke.  Easy water, not much current.  Looks like nothin’s gonna interrupt the weekly milk run. Just one last flat stretch before tying up for the night—50 seconds more and it’s done.  He swings his bare feet up onto the anchor’s desk, gets out his pipe, and sets himself to dreaming about fresh-baked huckleberry pie and other comforts awaiting him at home.  The control booth begins the count down for "The Last Look,” the closing segment:

“Five, four, three, two, you, Fareed.”

-- And now, for the last look:  Russian Rap reportedly has a new hero.  It’s the unassuming man in the gray sweater…

Captain Zakaria’s ears prick up.  Something like “Mark Twain!” is ringing in his head.  He spots the danger:  President Putin floating towards him on the teleprompter.  “Uh oh!  SOS! Putin ain’t de President, he de Prime Minister.   Stop de teleprompter, for chrissakes!  No, keep’t cool, man.  C’mon. C’mon ahead on‘t!  Oh-oh, noooo, … I feelin’ pale.  Ain’t gonna go! Can’t do nothin’ now!  Whata boner!  How hadn’t we ketched it!  Shall I git ‘m?  Change it?  No time.  What to do?  Go to de all-savin’ commercial?  Too late.  Run o’er it!  Folk won’t notice.  Who know what’a fella Putin is, who cares dat Putin ain’t de President, but de Prime Minister?  Folk can’t tell dem apart anyway.  Yea, yea.  Jus’ read it as de teleprompter says.  Run him o’er and get away!  What ‘f he comes up again?  ‘mpossible.  No time.  Go for ‘t, Fareed, jus’ do it!  C’mon ahead on it!  You gotta do it!  Tell’em dat de devil made you do it.

…It’s the unassuming man in the gray sweater right there in the front row. Yup, that’s President Putin…


Dear Grandma, Happy Victory Day!

My grandma is a diva. You might say it’s impossible since she’s 82. But it’s true. She calls my mother to ask for mascara, hair spray and hair curlers. She is preparing to celebrate the anniversary of the Soviet Victory over Hitler for the 65th time, today, May 9th. My grandma lived through the war, she witnessed the Victory and May 9 is her prima donna day. For her, it has been the success of a lifetime.

This Victory Day, which is celebrated all across the former Soviet Union, she marks every year with songs she chooses from her old song book, the book she keeps wrapped in newspaper on the front page of which is her picture.  She marks it with a bowl of buckwheat porridge, the same kind of porridge she had eaten for four years after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.  I bet she will once again, for the 50th or so time watch her favorite movie with Alexei Batalov The Cranes are Flying.  And for the 50th or so time, she will be crying.  Once again.

Although far from home, I still know that no matter how inclement the weather or how unforeseen are the circumstances that, today, my grandma will again meet her few remaining friend–heroes from the Great Patriotic War.  She will again bring her song book with the pages curled from the tears of the singers.   She will sing her favorite songs, which she marked long ago by dog-earring their pages in the book; and everybody else’s favorite songs, which she marks with vintage candy wrappers, the luxury of her times.  Songs like “Katyusha” and “The Victory Day” will be sung so many times that she will most certainly be complaining the next day about how she lost her book marks.

My grandma had just finished 8th grade when the war began.  She was 14.  She started working while at the same time studying Morse Code at the telegraph training school. In 1944, she joined the staff of the Soviet Central Telegraph Agency.  She was a telegraph operator, a passionate telegraphistka, a telegraphistka who would have enlisted in the army had the war continued through her 18th birthday. She tapped for 37 years.  And even now, when speaking her fingers, tapping on the table, translate her words into the dot–dash language of Morse Code, which we, the users of modern keyboards, can’t possibly comprehend.

My grandma, who first tried bananas when she was in her fifties, is a phenomenal woman.  She still maintains dust-free the entire 50+volume Big Soviet Encyclopedia.  She copied in longhand the entire entry on ‘The feuilleton’ for her granddaughter who, incidentally, does not know Morse Code and never understood why the Big Soviet Encyclopedia has to be called “Big” when it is obviously not small and even the smallest volume of it is big; that is, unliftable by her until she turned eight.

Grandma lived through the war, lived with the fear that her father might never come back home, that her brother and mother, my great grandmother, might not make it through the war.  She would go hungry for weeks to save pieces of bread she received in her school cafeteria for her brother.  She prayed that God would send her to the front so she could kill Hitler and save the USSR and her own family.  She imagined herself writing letters to Comrade Stalin asking him to allow a 17 year-old to enlist, to defeat the Nazis.

Today she has 3 children, 5 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren.

This year, she will celebrate May 9 with curly hair fixed in place with Schwarzkopf hairspray and mascara on her lashes, courtesy of Loreal.  Simply, because she’s worth it.  Sixty-five years ago on the first Victory Day, she had neither.  But she was happy.  And in the ensuing years she took good care of her happiness.  She knows what it means to live through a war and to never know what will happen tomorrow.  She knows how to enjoy her life just for the sake of it.  She appreciates every crumb of bread, savors every note of her favorite songs, remembers every word from the volume of Jack London that she read when the times were especially tough.  She knows what it means to live for the victory, to want to defeat the evil so much that the day of victory is remembered forever.

So, my dear Grandma and all Grandmas and Grandpas, Happy Victory Day!  Keep living every day to the fullest, as my grandma’s Jack London would have done.

(Grandma, here is Jack London’s credo that you used to read to me:


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[Editors note: In the unfinished work "To a Secret Friend," Bulgakov describes the process of creating a feuilleton:  "…the composition of a feuilleton of 75-100 lines occupies me, including smoking and whistling, for 18-22 minutes.  The typing of it, including giggling with the typist-- 8 minutes.  In short, it is all done in half an hour.]

[В неоконченной повести «Тайному другу» Булгаков описывает процесс создания фельетона: «...сочинение фельетона строк в семьдесят пять - сто занимало у меня, включая сюда курение и посвистывание, от 18 до 22 минут. Переписка его на машинке, включая сюда и хихиканье с машинисткой, - 8 минут. Словом, в полчаса все заканчивалось...» (Булгаков М.А., 1989 (А), Т.4.С. 119).]


Obama Almost Goes to Hell

Obama Almost Goes to Hell


Obama was the most powerful man on earth.  He lived in the White House, commanded a vast army, vacationed in Hawaii, danced with whomever he pleased.


He was a literary man.  Wrote two books all by himself.  He was eloquent and they awarded him a Nobel Prize.


He was a daring man who got things done.  He put the healthcare pill on the table and got a fussy Congress to swallow it.


And he was a good man, who tried to help the poor, cure the sick, rid the world of nukes and crooks.


But a great grief overcame Obama when his efforts to build up the economy and protect the financial sector from future crises were undone by the furious dollars flying business class from Wall Street to Washington.  When he beheld the vast host of lobbyists working behind the scenes to undermine his cause, when he realized that they were stealing his financial reform by bits and pieces, like secretive mice pilfering the crumbs from a pie, he said, “I will do that which no mortal has ever done before; I will do that from which even the immortals might shrink; I will go down into the World of Greed, into the Kingdom of Hades, to Wall Street and I will bring back to the living and to the light my financial bill.”


His descent into Hell was VIP swift.  Down, down, down by a diabolical path went Obama.  He instructed his pilot to fly low over the River Hudson to glimpse the boatman Charon. His motorcade sped past Cerberus Capital Management and came to the Wall that opens upon the World of Greed.  And the silent guardians who keep watch there, the defenders of the Lords of the Greedy were astonished when they saw the President’s approach.  They feared him as much as they feared their Lords.


He passed in silence by SEC officials, walking with their heads on backwards, watching naughty.com, unable to see what is ahead.


Then Obama took the teleprompter and spoke. As he spoke, the silent bankers and the Rulers of the Greedy gathered around him, leaving the Wall unguarded.


Obama said that the cause of his coming was to rescue his reforms.  “I am here,” said Obama, “because I believe that these reforms are, in the end, not only in the best interest of our country, but in the best interest of our financial sector.“


On hearing Obama speak the word interest, the Serpent Greed Herself slithered out of Pandora’s box and curtsied, remembering how in the name of interest she had quenched her thirst and made her followers rich.  She hissed an order to let Obama continue.


The teleprompter continued: “These changes have the added benefits of creating incentives within the [financial] industry…By enacting these reforms, we’ll help ensure that our financial system — and our economy — continues to be the envy of the world.”  The God of Envy bowed, his hungry, raging eyes bending to the ground.


“…reform would bring transparency to many financial markets,” said Obama. “That’s why reform will rein in excess and help ensure that these kinds of transactions take place in the light of the day.”  The God of Excess suddenly sat still, abandoning a saturnalia and drawing up his ears to catch Obama’s words.


“This plan,” said Obama, “would enact the strongest consumer financial protections ever.  This is absolutely necessary…while it’s true that many Americans took on financial obligations they knew … they could not afford, millions of others were, frankly, duped.  They were misled by deceptive terms and conditions, buried deep in the fine print.”  The Goddess of Deception surrounded by the Spirits of Fraud and Trickery, grateful for the acknowledgement of her work, ceased changing color and her sacred animal chameleon turned a limpid pale.


Парк Победы (Victory Park) - translation to Russian

Парк Победы

Москва. Парк-мемориал Победы над Гитлером. Завершен в 1995 году. К 50-летней годовщине Победы. Площадь – 135 га.

К Мемориалу Победы над Гитлером прилегает мемориал Победы над Наполеоном. Триумфальная Арка, заключенная в колонны из черного мрамора, охраняется шестью черными рыцарями. Изначально сооружена из дерева (в 1814 году), затем переделана в мрамор (в 1827 году), разобрана, передислоцирована и установлена  вблизи мемориала Победы над Гитлером в 1968 году.

Парк Победы  изумителен. Его композиция –отражение  борьбы и  ужасающей потери. Этот парк – архитектурный триумф. Доказательство того, что архитектура, как неоднозначно утверждала Айн Ранд (великая русская писательница...приносим извинения, Айн), высшая форма искусства.

Яркая самобытность Парка Победы заключается не в строительных материалах, положенных в его основу. По правде говоря, материалы так себе, ничего особенного. Главным образом гранит, вода, бронза. Присутствуют элементы из стекла, к которому мы относим и лампочки фонарей для ночных спецэффектов. Одним словом – обычные материалы.

Если вам вдруг покажется, что самобытность Парка заключается в его архитектурных элементах, позвольте вас разуверить. Купол, напоминающий военный шлем (или может,вполне вероятно,  он должен бы напоминать щит), высокий бронзовый обелиск, фонтаны, ряд мощеных площадей, каждая размером с футбольное поле, гранитные плиты, статуи Ники и Св. Георгия Победоносца, повергающего дракона, полукруглая колоннада, напоминающая ту, что обнимает Пиацу Св. Петра, имена погибших. Эти элеметы просты и вечны; они неизменные символы победы.

Самобытность парка заключается именно в том, как элементы его композиции скомбинированы и расположены по отношению друг к другу.

Иди, милый странник, иди за мной, ты сам убедишься в гениальности этой чарующей композиции.

Со станции метро, ты двинешься на запад.


Park Pobedy (Victory Park)

Moscow.  A victory-over-Hitler memorial park.  Completed in 1995.  In time for the 50th anniversary of the victory.  About 335 acres.


Adjacent to Victory over Hitler is Victory over Napoleon.  L’Arc de Triumph imprisoned behind columns of black marble, guarded by six black knights.  Originally constructed in wood (1814), rebuilt in marble (1827), disassembled, moved, reassembled next to Victory over Hitler (1968).


Park Pobedy (Victory over Hitler) is remarkable.  It expresses four years of struggle and staggering sacrifice.  An architectural triumph.  Exhibit A in support of Ayn Rand’s (the great Russian writer… apologies, Ayn), controversial claim that architecture is the highest of the arts.


What makes Park Pobedy special isn’t the materials from which it is constructed:  granite, marble, water, bronze, glass, electric lights for nighttime effects.   They are the usual memorial materials.


Nor is it the architectural elements:  a dome that looks like a black helmet (or perhaps it is meant to evoke a shield); a soaring bronze obelisk; fountains; plazas the size of football fields; statues of Nike and St. George slaying the dragon; the names of the dead; a semi-circular colonnade in white, resembling St. Peter’s.


No. It is the composition, how the architectural elements are arranged.


Go there and see the genius of the composition for yourself.


From the metro station, you turn west.


This is CNN? (outtakes)

[Editor's note:  James Earl Jones was the original 'voice' of CNN']

(Control booth:  OK James, whenever you are ready?)
Sir, I am always ready!
This channel is called CNN
(Jim, how about something shorter?)
This channel, this CNN
(good, can you give us another, baby?)
This news, your CNN
(now you're cooking, how about one more?)
This, this ..(breaks out laughing)..   Lemme start over
(Jim, how about "This is CNN")
It isn't grammatical.
(We know Jimbo, but just for fun ...)
This 'poshlost' called CNN
OK, OK, sorry just kidding, here it is...
this is cnn
(Come on Jim, just humor us one time, like you believe it)

This is CNN

(Oh, baby, that's it.  You nailed it)
You gotta be kidding me.
(no Jim, its perfect)
Lemme try one more.   
[hushed discussion in control booth]....   (OK, Jim, you got it)


[winks in control booth] ... (Thanks Jim, maybe we will use that one in the future)

(That's a wrap everybody, let's get some sushi)


Greek Tragedy: The Dash for the Metaphor

The 2700-Year Dash for the Metaphor


A Greek Tragedy: How Oedipus Papandreou betrayed Iocasta Merkelou and Nicolass Sarkozakis

The tyrant is a child of Pride

Who drinks from his great sickening cup

Recklessness and vanity,

Until from his high crest headlong

He plummets to the dust of hope.

That strong man is not strong.

But let not fair ambition be denied;

May God protect the wrestler for the state

In government, in comely policy,

Who will fear God, and on His ordinance wait.

Ode II, Sophocles, Oedipus Rex

A plague has again crippled the Greeks.

Last time, it was a blight on the harvest, on the parturient Greek wives and the fatted herds. The God of Plague reigned and the aristocracy--sore, swollen-footed and festering--could no longer lift its head.

This time, more than two and a half millennia later, the Greeks are again visited by a vengeful pestilence. It spreads over Greek bonds. It consumes the budget. It decimates the public sector. The Prospect of Default casts his grim shadow over the country.

The Chorus (played by the markets in this modern adaptation) chants in summation, “Oh, children of the immortals, how could you have been so blind?”

And the fleet, wit-muscled journalists, widely renowned for their blogging stamina, rush to invent a new Olympic event: The 2700-Year Dash to the Metaphor--an oratorical competition to find the best metaphor with which to explain what happened to Greece.

Below following is the oration of the final contestant.

The Soliloquy of Milosphenes

I – Milosphenes – stand here before you, noble judges, to compete for the glory of the Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. But before I start, I ask you to consider whether the things that I will say are just or not. For it is the virtue of a judge to say who’s right, while that of an orator to speak the truth. And if you doubt the virtue of my request, you will be doubting the wisdom of Socrates, because these words are his.

My opponents were many. My oration will argue with the metaphors of the greatest of them as it is an honor to engage in virtuous discussion with learned men.

The champion of the venerable Times -- its best and brightest (and Greekest) -- Vassilis Vassilikos -- called the troubles of Greece "The Crisis in a Stoic Land." Vassilikos denied that the modern crisis is a crisis at all. “Greece has survived much worse,” said Vassilis the Stoic. A noble entry. But is Greece really a stoic land? Exuberance in spending is what describes modern Greece. A stoic people wouldn’t riot in the streets. Vassilis Vassilikos, why didn’t you title your speech The Crisis in a Hedonistic Land?

UPI also sent its champion of the written word -- Martinopopulus Walker. “Greek Tragedy Unfolds” was the title of his speech. His title promised us, noble judges, a Greek Tragedy--a tale with a central character with a flaw that is his undoing. Instead, Martinopopulus, you delivered a gladiatorial spectacle. You said, “The saliva will soon start dripping from the ruthless jaws of the markets. They already smell blood and soon they will taste it.” You used metaphors so bloody that even Homer would have been left aghast; Homer whose scenes of battle and revenge--of spears missing Hector and impaling his driver, of slashes beside the nipple; of a ghastly string of roped women’s necks being pulled upward so that one at a time they die a pitiful death; Homeric scenes that torment the brain and brutalize the heart.