The Best Motto

Gd, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannon change
Courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

You woke up this morning - Congratulations! You got another chance!

Monday, August 27, 2007


Yesterday I took my niece to the Met for the first time (for her, obviously). Even thought by the time I got her, I was warned that she was a bit cranky and whatever undertaking I was going to embark on was going to be on my head, all in all the trip turned out to be a truly memorable experience.

First of all, she loves riding the subway. By the end of the ride, at least half the car becomes her friends, waiving and playing peekaboo, or she decides to give loud and screeching orations by picking herself up in her stroller. Unlike adults, she loves gazing at the tunnel through the windows and looking at colored ads in the cars.

At the museum, she charmed everyone from security guards and cloak room attendants to a middle-aged Italian tourist who ignored the humongous organ and decided to strike a conversation with my little American Gnome. She herself loved the huge entrance hall with it's domed ceiling so much that she did a little twirl there. We rode the escalator (wheeee), saw a whole bunch of different musical instruments (toy), saw a few pictures of what my family refers to "widow with child" (baby), and then there was a chorus of happy screeches from the balcony of musical instruments all the way down to the arms and armor collection (if you were ever at the Met and know the general layout, you can really appreciate this one). Plus there was one more picture dubbed "baby" ( little Spanish prince), to which I felt compelled to add "no, a little boy with horsey".

Then we went to the roof and enjoyed the magnificent view of Central Park, along with the shrubs surrounding the balcony (flower). After being informed that she can not touch the strange metal cylinders with the sand on top, she felt it her duty to inform everyone upon observing those things "Yabitch, fuh!" There was an ever increasing demand for milk in the Greek gallery (all the Russian speaking people can really appreciate this one); then we had to pass through the "Arts of Oceania" (or a bunch of ugly idols), at the sight of which poor child got scared and had to be picked up. In my opinion, by the way, this was the best critique on these so called "arts". At the very end the whole experience was a bit spoiled by the fact that scatterbrained aunt forgot her "sosa" (pacifier) in her stroller, so, by the time the aforementioned stroller was retrieved from the coat check and after the repeated demands for sosa, there was a full blown rebellion on my hands (use your imagination).

Every outing with our little Golden Delicious brings me such joy! Two minutes looking at her twirling are worth every single diaper I have ever changed ( and I did plenty of those)!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


A few weeks ago the unending wait for the last Harry Potter had reached its peak. As a result, I couldn't really concentrate on any kind of half serious reading material and ended up justifying my Netflix fees by watching my DVDs in record time. The show I was going through at the time was Babylon 5.

Now, leaving aside personal love or deep dislike of the Sci Fi genre, the usual mediocre acting abilities you can expect from TV show actors, and the standard agitprop that always seeps our way from Hollywood, Babylon 5 is interesting in a sense that it has one cohesive story and two parallel mystery lines running through it that are engaging enough; but that is not why I mention this particular experience. What really caught my attention was a little development at the end of the second season.

One of the main characters in the show is an alien woman called Delenn. She comes from a race called Minbari, which, of course, is much superior to Earth on many different levels. Even though officially she is just an ambassador to B5, in reality she is a member of the ruling Grey Council, and her real mission is quite different. There is a prophesy of the terrible ancient enemy coming to destroy the galaxy, and humans and Minbari are destined to unite in fight against that enemy. More than that, the prophesy alludes to the fact that Delenn most probably will play a crucial role in that fight. So, believing herself destined for that important mission, Delenn plays a diplomat in order to start preparations for the war.

Later on, in order to breach the gap between humans and her race, she undergoes a painful transformation in order to become half-human. As a result, she is shunned by her own people who are unaware of the greater mission, and later on loses her seat on the Council, which is aware, but stops trusting the prophecy and Delenn.

To top all this off, she must somehow prove herself to the other ancient race, which is running the whole show. So, while trying to explain why she thinks the prophecy meant specifically her, what her true motives are in all this, and why she thinks she is not really full of arrogance, Delenn is faced with an unbearable situation: she might die, or her friend might die trying to protect her. She keeps insisting on protecting her friend and sacrificing herself. "This is my mission: life! It does not matter if it is one life or one billion; I have to protect it!" is her anguished reply. She is willing to die alone, ignobly, unacknowledged, without any kind or hero recognition just to protect another being; and by making that choice she proves that her intentions are pure and noble, and there is no arrogance and self-delusion.

Now, just imagine doing that to any aspiring politician!!! Let them forget laurels and do meaningless and boring job; let them experience disdain and physical discomfort; and in the end, let them prove that they are willing to sacrifice their life without any kind of acknowledgement in order to save just one human life! It boggles the mind, does it not?

Monday, August 13, 2007


Part 2

This one is short and sweet. I observed it about five years ago during the evening rush hour on either A, C, or E train.

Due to the above mentioned rush hour, the train was pretty full, and since it had bench seats, the seating space was even more limited, because even the skinniest Y chromosome carries have an uncanny ability to occupy at least a space and a half on those benches.

Diagonally from me the following tableau was taking place: a gentleman of the old school, about seventy five years old and in possession of a cane, was persistently trying to give up his seat to a pregnant woman in her early thirties, while the above mentioned Y (and, for that matter, X) chromosome carriers in their thirties and twenties were taking advantage of their seats by occupying themselves with weighty matters like newspapers, magazines and snoozing.

Despite the adamant protests of the pregnant lady, the old gentleman won the skirmish and proceeded to his destination hanging on to the pole with one hand and to his cane with the other, while the rest of the seated population blissfully continued with their very important matters at hand. Hurray for chivalry! It is still alive!

Friday, August 10, 2007



According to the "influential Iranian daily newspaper Kayhan" Harry Potter books are nothing more than Zionist ploy aimed at "disturbing young Muslim minds". So, Harry, and, by association, Joanne Rowling, Mazal Tov and welcome to the club!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Last night I finished the last Harry Potter book. It may sound childish and corny, but that last page closed a chapter in my life.

My sister's gentle (about one year worth of) badgering opened the door. At the time Harry and I met, he already finished his fourth year at Hogwarts. I instantly fell in love with his world, and the amazing imagination of his creator and her wonderful sense of humor. Like everyone else, I had to suffer the three year waiting for the fifth installment, and the subsequent two years each for sixth and then the final seventh. In the interim, there were the usual heated discussions, musings, and loads of guessing; and, of course, constant re-readings.

Now that the saga is over and almost all the questions have been answered, so that we can compare notes and see who and when was right, there will be no more anticipation, no more waiting, no more British Amazon or mad dashes on Saturday night to book stores, there is a certain sense of loss. We will never say good buy to Harry; but the relationship will be different from now on, and that brings forth a bittersweet feeling.

Of course, as usually happens in the case of something very popular, everyone and their brother had to get on the bandwagon and express their opinion; and, as always, the predictability of the usual stupidity is amazing. For example, I do not know who first decided that JK took her ideas from Star Wars, but the idea stuck and every single critic felt it incumbent upon him or her to repeat it. Then there were the usual musings about supposed other sources, like Lord of the Rings, the discussions of why the books are so popular, the predictions of wherever or not they will survive after this generation, the critique of her writing style, mentionings that for some people reading her books is like being subjected to the Cruciatus curse, counting of the amount of cliches on every page, the phrase "her flatfooted dialogues", the suggestions that here she sacrifices the plot for character development and here she sacrifices character development for the plot, the learned scholars' discussions of what and how supposed to happen according to the cannons of classical literature and mythology, hints that she was lying about having the whole series in her mind beforehand and only writing them when her first books turned out to be so popular, et cetera, et cetera... The most fun ( at least for me) was provided by our Christian "brothers". From paralleling Harry to the late JC to accusing him of teaching witchcraft and occult to our children and everything in between, like predicting the future disobedience of children as a direct result of reading those books; let's just say it was very, very amusing.

I just feel like adding my two cents worth to all this. As I always maintained, liking or not liking of any kind of literary work is a purely personal and subjective thing; on the other hand, repeating somebody else's moronic opinions, usually without touching a book, is, well, moronic; plus it reminds me of the good old Soviet phrase: "I did not read, but I feel honor-bound to say..." Of course, the craziness will slow down a bit simply because there are no more books to look forward too; but surviving for the next few generations? Hell, yes. Classic or not? That will probably be decided in about hundred or so years, because, let's face it, "true classics" have to be at least that old and written by somebody dead. As for all the discussions of literary merit or the lack thereof, allow me to paraphrase the dialogue from one of my favorite BW movies. It was called "Love in the Afternoon" with Cary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn in the lead. Cooper's character keeps giving compliments to Hepburn's, to which she replies "I am too thin, and my ears are too big, and my teeth are crocked, and my neck is much too long" to which he replies: "That's true, but I like the way it all hangs together!" True beauty does not have to be symmetrical and perfect to give immense delight and sublime pleasure.

One of the main reasons, in my humble opinion, why these books are so unbelievably popular, aside from Rowling's unending imagination and humor, is their deep humanity. Everybody can relate to them and everybody can find some parallels to their lives in there. There are a lot of likable and admirable characters, but not one of them is perfect; they are all human, with their flaws, mistakes, and shortcomings. In our wonderful times of nihilism, modernism, post-modernism, general fascination with psychotics and perversions, moral relativism, and very strange definitions of when and how and under what circumstances does human life have value, how can a simple story about school for magic and its students attract attention and become a bestseller? The "childish" book about ordinary people with extraordinary talents living right next to us is fascinating enough; when you add to it the beauty of friendship, loyalty, selflessness, humility, innocence, heroism, love being "the deepest magic of all", and the morality tale of "our choices, not our abilities, which make us who we are", is it any wonder that everyone from seven to eighty seven years old can't get enough of the book?

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Part 1

Like every normal, red-blooded New Yorker, I spent at least two hours of every working day on the subway. As I mentioned before, New York subway is not just a mode of transportation; it is a constant source of entertainment and adventure. Here are some of mine.

I love riding the subway chiefly because this is my reading time. So, in order to maximize the enjoyment, I have to make sure to get a seat (at all times) and to insure that the AC is working (during the summer months). The latter is achieved by simply touching the poles (although I know I look totally demented while doing so). The former, on the other hand...That requires art, one of the applications of which is following: during rush hour (if you have time), do not, under any circumstances, take Brooklyn-bound train on any stop located in the heavy Midtown shopping areas (like 34th or 42nd Street). Instead, take a north bound train for a few stops, then you can board the train when it is less crowded, and you will be insured a comfortable ride back home. Q train makes this especially easy for the past few years, since it finishes its route on 57th Street and then goes back. So, if you are shopping in Macy's, take the uptown train, ride two stops backwards, wait a little while, and you are on your way back to less exiting borough, but in comfort.

Which is precisely what I was doing one nice winter evening. After semi-successful shopping excursion I got on the uptown Q on 34th Street, found a seat, and opened my book. At the time I was reading Othello. Now, as previously mentioned, I get very passionate about my reading material and very involved with the characters and story line. As the train was trundling towards 57th Street, I was deeply involved in Othello's tortured monologue about his love for Desdemona and his deep feeling of betrayal at the news of her supposed infidelity. The more I read, the more disgusted I became with the stupid idiot. Unfortunately, I can never keep a poker face and contain my feelings inside. So, I kept shaking my head, raising my eyebrows and muttering. At one point I proclaimed out loud: "Just over a handkerchief, you stupid idiot!"

Diagonally from me there sat a middle aged, mild mannered looking tourist, who kept staring at me with fascination and horror. Here it is at last, one of authentic New York loonies! I saw him fiddling with his camera strap; fortunately, he obviously was not sure if I am harmless enough to permit picture taking. So, I continued cursing Othello, and he continued to stare at me and play with his camera.

Finally, we arrived at 57th Street. Since I had already found a favorite perch, I ploughed on through the misadventures of the jealous Moor. The kindly tourist decided to take pity on me before leaving the train. He cautiously approached my bench, looked down and pointed at the door: "it's the last stop." "Yes, I know, thank you", was my response with a smile, then I bend my head to continue sympathizing with Desdemona. The poor guy gazed at me with renewed terror and quickly run out of the car.

Till this day I have no idea if he had regrets for not taking that souvenir shot.