A Specter Haunts America, Again!

Has America finally found its vocal chords?  In this global cacophony of revolution, rebellion and insurrection, have the American people finally begun to rise up and have their own voices heard? Are they ready to dismantle the scaffolding and assorted paraphernalia of institutionalized hierarchy?  Are they articulating a new era of anarchy, a modern, post-critical anarchy?

I have heard voices from the Wall Street Occupation, and I clearly hear the rejection of hierarchy on their lips and in the behavior of those speaking on their behalf. I am not sure if their stated dedication to the “process” of consensus is a viable route to everlasting love and collaboration, but at least they are giving voice to a burgeoning anarchic sentiment.

I dedicate the following article to the current efforts of OWS and all peoples who can see beyond the fabric of this sham we are living.  It was the introductory essay to Apocalypse Of The Barbarians, which I first penned in October 2010 (now with minor revisions). But first, I give you the voice and soul of Grigori Leps, Russian Chanson artist, singing Vladimir Vysotsky’s “Cupola.” (with English translation of the lyrics following). One of the greatest pieces of music (and performances) that I have found; it’s message is self evident.  Let it be the voice of the people!!!!!

CUPOLA – Vladimir Vysotsky

The air is stale with thunder what will happen now > my throat contracting and my zest for life is spinning > downwards – as I look for omens, can I trust the vows > those prophetic birds of fairytales are singing

I hear Sirin, bird of gladness, and her song of lure > has trills that drills my faith out of its ease > Alkonost, a bird whose brooding sorrow and pain has a message that’s splitting my peace

Grief and joy have now begun > reverberating what’s in store > little bird of hope named Gamajun, > it’s me she’s singing for

All over the universe there are bells that chime > a belfry sky lined copper sign, > is it sadness, is it madness, is it joy; > cupolas of the Russians are decked with gold > that our Maker should watch us more often

In the middle of the fairytale of this eternal land > an enigma beyond the means of manland of mine where people live in poverty and sham > under big blue skies with ample gifts from nature’s hand

My precious horses sink down belly-deep > stuck in the mud of fat and yellow falseness>  and yet they carry on so I can see > the oozing, stinking realm arise from slumber

The lunar sickle baptized me > but it makes a tricky mate > Gamajun, can I trust you hopefully > to give me comfort, boost my faith 

I shall keep on polishing my weary soul > until it’s reeking, until it bleeds > until it’s shining out of fury, out of joy > and I shall mend my ragged clothes with gold > that my Maker shall watch me more often.


In solidarity, sandy krolick, kulturCritic

A Specter Is Haunting America

“A specter is haunting Europe,” Karl Marx once wrote.  He wrote these words on the eve of revolutionary outbreaks that began in Italy and France in 1848 and soon engulfed much of the Continent.

Unbeknownst to most Americans, Europe is again engulfed in revolt, which threatens to spread. The financial crisis that started in the USA and swept the globe, along with the sovereign debt crisis that was inflicted upon the European Union as a result, has ignited the passions of strangled and enslaved masses everywhere. People have recognized their enslavement and have put a finger on their slave-masters. The largely capitalist regimes are no less affected than are the socialist, communist, or theocratic ones, for they all have the same owner.

On the heels of 2009 civil unrest that had swept through Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Greece, Portugal, Russia and the Czech Republic in response to diverse austerity measures implemented by the ruling elites, a full-force revolt has broken out in France. Much like the political protests following the Iranian elections in 2009, months of protests and street demonstrations across France have taken a more violent turn, and signs of an armed insurrection continue to mount. Across the Atlantic, even the Canadians have taken their eyes off the puck long enough to become enraged, staging protests at the G-20 meeting in Toronto that would make a Frenchman proud, protests that have prompted one of the tamest looking of political beasts to bare its tyrannical fangs.

The American middle class preoccupied, until recently, with gazing at the shadows cast upon the walls of its cave (or is that prison), wanted to believe what they – what we – were told by our owners and handlers: that all will be right with the world, provided we keep our heads down and work hard. Political hucksters like Obama reassuringly told us that “Yes We Can” survive this crisis and go on begging for a piece of the American Dream. The man behind the curtain was imploring us to go on ignoring what was plainly before our eyes.  He told us that our world is intact and will continue to prosper. And we dutifully listened, and willfully refused to see. Until now!!  The disillusioned among us could no longer ignore the mountain of evidence to the contrary.  The people are fed up with the hierarchy and the institutional lies.  The show is coming to an end, and it promises to be an inglorious one. The wave of extinctions, peak oil, peak water, economic and financial crises worldwide, and political unrest abroad that has now spread to the homeland—are these not signs of immanent collapse?

But we, along with our European brothers and sisters, do not understand the magnitude of this seismic event. It is neither a fiscal nor an economic problem. It is not a matter of having the wrong political leadership, nor is it the result of confused or misguided personal priorities. It is a crack in the dome of the theatre of the Spectacle that began with the advent of human history, of civilization itself. It is a sign of the endgame of an evolutionary dead end that has pathologically sought artifices of manipulation and control at all costs.

As Thomas Hobbes proleptically though unwittingly stated centuries ago, this will be a “Warre of all against all.”  But this will not be the war that he mistakenly assumed would have occurred among our pre-civilized ancestors had it not been for our constituting the social contract. Rather, it is a war resulting from that very contract, grounded in cold and calculative thinking, and from the momentum it imparted to civilization for these last six thousand years of recorded history.

The specter Marx was referring to was Communism: his contention was that it would and should be the final stage in the dialectical movement of history to a civil but classless society. He was mistaken: the communist experiment failed. The real ghostly apparition, the unpleasantness that is haunting us now is a natural reflection of the fundamental lethality of industrial civilization itself and the systems of hierarchy and domination it has spawned, all based upon the power of the syllogism. This is the logic of objective science, the principle of our legal systems, the rationality behind our social contracts, the anonymity of our civil politics, and the narrative framework of history itself. It is this logic that binds us to hierarchies that have worked to empty the world of all its resources and life, of all its significance, replacing them with impersonal systems that vainly attempt to control and manage all affairs, human or natural.

It is the inevitable culmination of six thousand years of unnatural, human history that began with the first urban empires emerging in and around Mesopotamia’s once fertile Fertile Crescent. People can still sense this basic lethality, though many have themselves become empty parts of emptying hierarchical institutions—an emptiness expressed most baldly in the following formulation: If A is a B, and B is a C, then A must be a C. Whether to control nature or our fellow humans, in this view we are all interchangeable cogs, commodities within the single logic of control – a composite of test scores, job functions, marketable fashions and other objective criteria. Herein lies the reason for our emptiness, our sense of alienation from one another, from nature, and from our own natures. Compensating for this emptiness, we have sought to acquire other commodities to make us feel whole again—televisions, cars, laptops and other gadgets. But flashy cars and big screen televisions are not a replacement for happiness, and they will not save us.

America is the most rationally conceived of all modern, civilized societies. We have more science and technology, more laws and lawyers, more prisons and prisoners, more military bases—in short, more and larger systems of domination than any other country on the planet. We also have more money managers and swindlers, more rat race, more mental illness and more lone gunmen acting out against whatever they perceive as an injustice in their world. And yet we keep marching straight ahead to the precipice. We are a nation of rule-followers, not a community of free persons—and we are committed to the syllogism as no other.  There is no dignity in our enslavement; we have become the emptiest of souls.

What is haunting the globe today is the specter of primitive anarchy, a feral tendency buried deep within the marrow and musculature of the human species.  It is a powerful instinct, an irrepressible will to survive the artfully constructed but cold hierarchical systems of domination that have been enslaving the planet for six millennia, and which are now failing. It is anarchic in the truest sense of the word: it seeks to be leaderless not merely in a political sense, but to be free from the tyrannical hegemony imposed by the civilizing logic of syllogistic reasoning itself. It seeks to make each person, each interaction, each moment unique, unclassifiable, open to will and chance. It seeks freedom in the polysemy of the senses, of the physical body—not the body politic. This specter is not imaginary: it is real, and it is upon us.  It is now everywhere and has a will of its own. It can no longer be brought under control, through force or through reason, and there will be no escaping it. It is not interested in you; it is coming after who you are.


64 Responses to A Specter Haunts America, Again!

  1. rg the lg says:

    What can one say to what was placed before us above?
    It is a beast of our own evolving social systems … and it is the end result of an effort to be smarter than ourselves …

    OWSers are a strange, though inevitable cacophony, of the plight of the doomed. Scrambling for control of the message the oligarchs, again, misread the lettering they themselves have written on the walls of their own prisons. Prisons of the mind, prisons of expectations, prisons of the idea that life could be dominated …

    But, the OWSers don’t truly understand what is the cause of their fears … the fears that have ever daunted us … ever made us strive for control of what is proving uncontrollable. And, if any survive what humans will view as cataclysm (while other species mutate to manage) the odds are they will think about rebuilding what is lost rather than to accept what is.

    The is-ness of us will once again fail … maybe sooner, maybe later … there will be pain. But simply because it is human pain does not make it any different from the pain(s) of life … which has, not an end, but an evolutionary series of death … as life continues despite, but never in spite, of our puny efforts to avoid the inevitable.

    Like Montaigne, we must learn only one thing … that only in the now does anything matter … the future is not ours … just as the past belonged to those who lived it.

    I ramble … I rant … little else is open to me. Just as it should be …

  2. John Bollig says:


    Now you may have stumbled on something that everyone can understand. The concept of the fear and confusion that exists in our world. The colossal failure of the leadership of the west to grasp the end of civilization that is soon to befall us all. We need to understand the failure is a failure of the social contract. Society is colapsing and my fear is that we will very soon be facing the end with in 3- 5 years at the latest.

  3. rg the lg says:

    Predictions are always suspect.

    The collapse could happen as I type this … it could be twenty or thirty or fifty years hence …

    I suspect (speaking of suspects) that the collapse will be a relatively slow erosion … and the cataclysm will be eventual, and perhaps permanent. Or, put the other way ’round … we are experiencing it now. The fact that most are oblivious to the meaning of events is simply the nature of fearful humans neglecting to read the handwriting on the wall …

    There are exceptions, always exceptions …

  4. rg the lg says:

    This is long … sorry … but in my experience links are often ignored …:

    Opinionator – A Gathering of Opinion From Around the Web
    October 19, 2011, 7:00 pm
    What Makes Free Will Free?

    The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers on issues both timely and timeless.

    free will, Neuroscience, Philosophy, science

    The Stone is featuring occasional posts by Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, that apply critical thinking to information and events that have appeared in the news.

    Could science prove that we don’t have free will? An article in Nature reports on recent experiments suggesting that our choices are not free. “We feel that we choose,” says the neuroscientist John-Dylan Haynes, “but we don’t.”

    The experiments show that, prior to the moment of conscious choice, there are correlated brain events that allow scientists to predict, with 60 to 80 percent probability, what the choice will be. Of course this might mean that the choices are partially determined by the brain events but still ultimately free. But suppose later experiments predict our choices with 100 percent probability? How could a choice be free if a scientist could predict it with certainty?

    But my wife might be 100 percent certain that, given a choice between chicken livers and strip steak for dinner, I will choose steak. Does that mean that my choice isn’t free? Couldn’t she be sure that I will freely choose steak?

    Perhaps, though, what’s important about the experiments is not that choices are predictable but that they are caused. How could a choice that is caused be free? Wouldn’t that mean that something made it happen? On the other hand, how could a choice that was not caused be free? If a choice has no cause at all, it is simply a random event, something that just occurred out of the blue. Why say that a choice is mine if it doesn’t arise from something occurring in my mind (or brain)? And if a choice isn’t mine, how can we say I made it?

    Following out this line of thought, David Hume, for example, argued that a free choice must be caused and that, therefore, freedom and causality must be compatible. (This view of freedom is called “compatibilism.”) Of course, some ways of causing a choice do exclude freedom. If I choose to remain indoors because I’m in the grip of a panic attack at the thought of going outside, then my choice isn’t free. Here we might say that I’m not just caused to choose as I do, I’m compelled. But perhaps I stay inside just because I want to continue reading an interesting book. Here my desire to continue reading causes me to stay inside, but it seems wrong to say that it compels me. So perhaps a choice is free when it’s caused by my desire rather than compelled (that is, caused against my desire). A choice is not free when it’s uncaused but when it’s caused in the right sort of way.

    Philosophers favoring compatibilism have worked out elaborate accounts of what’s involved in a choice’s being caused “in the right sort of way” and therefore free. Other philosophers have argued that compatibilism is a blind alley, that unless our choices are ultimately uncaused they cannot be free. These efforts have led to many important insights and distinctions, but there is still lively debate about just what is required for a choice to be free.
    Related More From The Stone

    Read previous contributions to this series.

    Figuring out what makes a choice free is essential for interpreting scientific experiments about freedom, but it does not itself involve making scientific observations. This is because “What makes a choice free?” is not a question about facts but about meanings. The fact that I raised my arm can be established by scientific observation—even by the impersonal mechanism of a camera. But whether I meant to wave in greeting or to threaten an attack is a matter of interpretation that goes beyond what we can scientifically observe. Similarly, scientific observations can show that a brain event caused a choice. But whether the choice was free requires knowing the meaning of freedom. If we know that a free choice must be unpredictable, or uncaused, or caused but not compelled, then an experiment can tell us whether a given choice is free. But an experiment cannot of itself tell us that a choice is free, anymore than a photograph by itself can record a threat.

    This is not necessarily because freedom is some mysterious immaterial quality that is beyond the ken of science. That may be so, but the essential point is that, at present, we do not have a sufficiently firm idea of just what we mean by freedom to know how to design a test for it. More precisely, we don’t know enough about the relation of free choice to the brain-events that typically precede it. (By contrast, we do, for example, know enough to judge that a brain tumor that triggers psychotic behavior destroys free choice.)

    The progress of brain science can give us specific information about how brain events affect our choices. This allows our philosophical discussion of the conceptual relation between causality and freedom to focus on the real neurological situation, not just abstract possibilities. It may well be that philosophers will never arrive at a full understanding of what, in all possible circumstances, it means for a choice to be free. But, working with brain scientists, they may learn enough to decide whether the choices we make in ordinary circumstances are free. In this way, science and philosophy together may reach a solution to the problem of free choice that neither alone would be able to achieve.

    Copyright 2011 The New York Times Company

    • Disaffected says:

      rg the lg,

      I recently asked this question to a mixed audience of people I know, who all work at a world class scientific institution:

      In an infinite universe, how much knowledge has yet to be gained at any given point in time, regardless of the amount of knowledge already gained? (This is perhaps the most BASIC OF BASIC scientific questions!) For extra credit (and this one truly IS wide-open philosophically), what does that imply? Discuss.

      Hint: the answer is a mathematical identity, which should be obvious to anyone of even an average 8th grade American education (at most) at first sight. Can you answer it?

      Indeed. Can you answer it? Not to pick on YOU in particular, but to merely ask the question in general.

      And yet, you’d be surprised…


      • rg the lg says:

        OK … point made … taken.

        Information … science … knowing …

        8th grade math? I doubt it … most kids / people I know still struggle at the 4th or 5th grade level … and don’t ask about how they handle fractions at 6th …

        Their parents are worse … and as fearful of math as they are the EVIL OTHER … and of answers to questions they’d prefer never be asked.

        As one, it seems redundant to say, Americans are badly educated NOT because of anything other than the fact that Americans have a visceral understanding that knowledge requires something of, or similar to, a conscience. Thus, to be avoided. It is easier to just be led … or as Vachel Lindsay once said, leaden eyed:

        Let not young souls be smothered out before
        They do quaint deeds and fully flaunt their pride.
        It is the world’s one crime its babes grow dull,
        Its poor are ox-like, limp and leaden-eyed.
        Not that they starve; but starve so dreamlessly,
        Not that they sow, but that they seldom reap,
        Not that they serve, but have no gods to serve,
        Not that they die, but that they die like sheep.

        Lindsay speaks of the poor … but I would suggest that poorly aware / informed / conscious might be closer to whatever truth might be …

        • Disaffected says:

          That was some DEEP SHIT! THANK YOU for that!

          By the way, can you answer the question I posed? It’s shockingly easy.


  5. Brutus says:

    Good post, excerpted from the book. Strange to hear/read you waxing poetic about things as they become tragic (or apocalyptic or cataclysmic, choose your word). I suppose they always have been, despite movements and changes in the culture and our perennial denial.

    KulturCritic sez:

    Political hucksters like Obama reassuringly told us that “Yes We Can” survive this crisis and go on begging for a piece of the American Dream. The man behind the curtain was imploring us to go on ignoring what was plainly before our eyes. He told us that our world is intact and will continue to prosper.

    This is one of several worthwhile nuggets. Let me observe, though, that this is the lie/fraud we want to be told. We’re complicit in the same respect that we’re nearly all products of the culture into which we were born. We perpetuate it for a while, then a few of us wake up to disillusionment, not that it matters.

    I gave a speech a year ago where I argued (among many other things) that America was a country formed by religious, political, and economic refugees. As such, we unwittingly adopted a shrewd, huckster mentality which carried us through to today and informs our most basic and essential institutions. Since the speech, I have found several others making similar arguments, notably Morris Berman in his book Why America Failed, due out next month. He uses the term “hustler” instead, but it’s the same idea. He also points to the idea of fragment societies, developed by Louis Hartz in The Liberal Tradition in America (1955). In short, American refugees took from whole European cultures only the aggressive, entrepreneurial restlessness of mercantilism and refined it into capitalism.

    While the proper perspective on the sweep of our own history extends six millennia (or more) back, the crescendo or acceleration of the last few centuries (the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution, the Industrial Revolution) is also worth some special consideration. The whole edifice of civilization (now global) may have been doomed from the start, just as with the American empire, but the final few nails in the coffin — solid gold nails, I suspect — are something to behold.

  6. john patrick says:

    I really appreciate everyone posting here. Lot of good insight, thoughts, for someone seeking intelligent conversation. Just to pick one of many, where [rg the lg] says, “the future is not ours …”

    I have to agree. Life has its own life. The future, as well. To borrow from anything but today, past or future, has an incredible usury rate. Mostly, because I think life refuses to be hemmed in by our petty boundaries, exceptionalism, and betting parlor rules.

    • Disaffected says:

      “Mostly, because I think life refuses to be hemmed in by our petty boundaries, exceptionalism, and betting parlor rules.”


      I agree, but I think we’re about to explore the limits of that sentiment.


      • john patrick says:

        Yeah. It’s gonna’ be interesting.

        But when you think about it, much of it is illusion. Illusion of power, wealth. Reality will have its way. And we will not be given immunity from all the crying that is likely to occur. Ugh. In the past, one might be able to migrate to a better place and escape the downside. But, where to now? The best plan seems to be inner-fortitude. And friends.

  7. kulturcritic says:

    Does no one at all have a comment or opinion on the music… or are we all dead??!! – sandy

    • Disaffected says:

      Personally, I’m probably dead, but I’m gonna look at it anyway kC. Ya freaking Communist blogger, ya!


      • kulturcritic says:

        DA, et. al.

        How many song have you posted, and expected me to listen to and I did, and even commented on a few, although they were ones I heard an infinite number of times. And here I am – the blogger – posting what I think is not only culturally expanding for all of you, but perhaps one of the most important pieces of music I have heard in my life [and for part of my life I was a musician (rock and classical) and a music producer (album and music vide]. I also believe Leps is one of the greatest bards alive today, singing one of the greatest songs from perhaps the greatest Russian bard to have lived (Vysotsky). I must say, I am disappointed in the lack of response to the music. sandy

        • john patrick says:

          I admit to skipping over the music. But I did make a note to myself to read your story this weekend. Uninterrupted. Period. And provide a thoughtful feedback.

        • Disaffected says:

          Oh no you didn’t you little knucklehead, you little Sandy kC knucklehead you! I posted below, but I often wish I could sit on the Siberian steppe over there with you for a night or two and shoot the shit over a Russian beer or twelve (or more!). Something tells me some legendary stories might be told/created in the process. At least among us.

          You freaking Blogger, you!


        • Brutus says:

          I skipped commenting on the music, though I did listen to it, for one reason: I don’t want to shit all over your enthusiasm. It’s not that Grigori Leps isn’t great or that he doesn’t legitimately stir heart strings or the soul, it’s that people have different tastes in music, and especially with the language barrier, the impression is weakened.

          Disclosure: I earned a doctorate in music and experience all kinds of excitement in the German and Russian symphonic tradition. Is it reasonable of me to expect my taste to be shared and reflected by others? No, not really. (Lip service doesn’t count. The truth is that most are practically deaf to the great Western canon in music.) Pop and rock rarely affects me deeply. Shostakovich, well, he da bomb.

          • kulturcritic says:

            I am a classically trained pianist, Brutus. I am not deaf to the Western canon, if you will. Rachmaninov, Lizst, Brahms, Beethoven, Chopin among my favorites. However, we should recognize that Leps is not rock or pop, particularly when he performs Vysotsky. It is Chanson and Bard music. And I did not expect people to be wow’d by the piece as I have been. But, until I asked, there was not even a comment on the lyrics.

            • Brutus says:

              It doesn’t surprise me that clearly astute, educated folks like you (and others commenting here) would be trained musicians. My point is merely that tastes differ.

              I’m hardly ignorant about music, but I’ll admit I don’t know about chanson and bard music (other than what it used to be in the Middle Ages). The drums, guitars, amplification, microphones, stage lighting, and parlando singing share more with arena rock than any other popular musical style. The YouTube video does not show a French street song or Russian tavern song.

      • john patrick says:

        This is a communist blog? Oh my god. Hide the virgins!

        Good music. Sitting here with a glass of wine. It reminds me of something else long lost…

        • kulturcritic says:

          Thank you, and the goddess that sent you here john patrick!!

          • john patrick says:

            Eh. There’s better posters here than me. That’s why I come here. You got some brilliant minds on this board. Now, with music, if you invited me over for dinner and served me tree bark marinated in apple sauce. Well, of course I like it. Same thing I tell my girlfriend when she serves me tomatoes and mozarella cheese five times a week. Bless her soul. And, yours, too. I found the music interesting. I wouldn’t mind having a beer with the guy. But I’d also like having a beer with DA and listen to some Pink Floyd. Maybe it just has to do with beer.

  8. Disaffected says:

    Ok Sandy,

    Regardless of the rest of your post (which is MOST excellent indeed!), might I suggest that music is, and continues to be (especially in the modern day, when it is increasingly largely lyrically driven, regardless of the underlying “generic” beat), largely cultural, and thus, local.

    I know, this flies in the face of what you AND I intuitively feel (believe me!), but watching that video – regardless of posted lyrics – simply didn’t “do it for me.” And THIS from one of your MAIN posters of music videos AND social commentary!

    Rest assured, I GET it!

    Needless to say, I’m not a “Soc PhD,” and I don’t even begin to understand these things. Believe me, I GET IT(!), even as I don’t understand it. Why do the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Eagles, Counting Crows, and Google Dolls “do it” for me, while others don’t?



    And that’s the beauty of it all in the first place!


    • kulturcritic says:


      Might I suggest that our cultural blinders are stronger than you realize; they have perhaps infected your ability to enter the lifeworld of a ‘foreign’ soul and hear his call. I understand that it “didn’t do it” for you; so, given that, what do you mean by “Rest assured, I GET it!!”?

      • Disaffected says:


        I mean that “I get” what you are talking about in the first place; i,e,: the “cultural blinders.” I have long since realized that this is a problem, through various means. Modern cultural music especially, with it’s heavy emphasis on lyrics, seems to be particularly problematic. Especially since rhythmically it often sees to be identical. But then again, that’s just me, and I’m old (or so I’m told at 53), and have a “tin ear” for these things these days. Don’t we all?


      • Disaffected says:


        I GET THAT music either DOES or DOES NOT “do something” for you, EXACTLY as the opposite sex does as well, and thus far, in my experience at least, that experience is largely undefinable, even as it’s knowable. In other words, you know it when you hear/feel it. TRUST ME! I have had MAJOR experience in this area of late!


      • Disaffected says:


        Here’s another thing. I guess this all sounded a little too western for me, in that I “expected” to hear something else. This might be just me, since I’ve traveled fairly extensively abroad in the US military. That said, even when I was in the military, I always expected to “break the barrier” somewhere in my travels. Needless to say, that never happened.

        I’ve ALWAYS been disappointed. Small world indeed!

        Maybe interior China and/or India?


        • kulturcritic says:

          OK, OK!! I am not going to push the music issue further; but we are going to explore the Russian soul!!! And this music speaks to my soul. I have seen this man perform live on numerous occasions, and there is something in the quality, the raw nerve of his voice that affects me viscerally. And, I feel sorry, if it does not do that to others. And the lyrics of this Vysotsky song speak to more than just the Russians… it speaks to our global situation.

  9. john patrick says:

    RG says, “In an infinite universe, how much knowledge has yet to be gained at any given point in time, regardless of the amount of knowledge already gained?”

    I’d have to guess, infinite. But even knowing that, it represents an imaginary negative number.

    I find comfort in reading Heinlein, Vonnegut, and a few others. We’ve been here before. And in the course of a thousand years (ignore infinity) we’ll likely revisit it many times more. I don’t remember which author I read that said, “Perfection is evil.” Because perfection is game-over. The “solution” to the problem. It makes sense. In an infinite experience, there is infinite growth and discovery. And infinite stupidity. Might as well get used to it…

    If you knew you had 10,000 years ahead of you, would you take a trip on the Titanic, or eat sugar plums ’till you got a bellyache.

    Titanic might be interesting. Once.

    • john patrick says:

      In a sense, (credit to Brutus) we’re on the deck of the big ship trying to figure out if the bow or stern is going to sink first. Let’s imagine we’re there. What do you do? And how do you know you’d really do it, unless you’re really there.

      So we’re here. Once. Perhaps.

      I’d like to think I’d help little kids get into the lifeboats. Then maybe go back to the lounge for a glass of wine. Then do a swan dive from a hundred feet up to a floating toilet seat bobbing on the surface. And maybe find a magazine floating on the water nearby. And…

      Who the hell knows. But I think we’ll find out soon enough. Is that magazine going to be Popular Mechanics, or Vanity Fair. Reminds me of the “three books” George took with him when he departed in the Time Machine, the final time.

    • Disaffected says:


      Congratulations! You win the Kewpie doll!

      That said, I’m surprised at your answer. There’s no need to “guess,” since this one is a dead-lock-cinch. Nor is there any reason to call it an “imaginary negative number,” as that’s both basically incorrect (the number is not inherently negative, although negative numbers certainly ARE included in the answer ), although it IS inherently “imaginary,” in that it is, by definition, undefined.

      The answer is, Infinity (the undefinable set) plus OR minus anything is, BY DEFINITION, equal to Infinity, the undefinable set. I’m not smart. I learned that one in 7th grade at a decidedly average public school in the “heartland” of the “good ‘ol USA” at a time when the only thing on my mind was – believe when I tell you – PUSSY 24/7! I found it rather intuitive/convenient, in that the only thing I had to reply when asked if the question included the word infinity in any form was: INFINITY! THANK YOU Ms. Nissen – you glorious old bitch – wherever you are now!

      Fucking MANY LOLs!!!

      In all seriousness, I’ve thrown this same argument at many of my religious friends, who ALL fail to see the logic involved. As usual – on my better days at least – I shake my head and move along. There’s no outlawing stupidity, now is there?

      My new favorite saying (for the time being at least):

      Christians (fill in the blank as to your favorite religious/other group to pick on)! You can’t live with ’em, you can’t just shoot ’em all in the head!


  10. kulturcritic says:

    BTW – Here is a piece on the three birds spoken about in the song, “Cupola.” They were also referenced by Alexander Blok in his poem – “Gamajun, Prophetic Bird.”

    And as it just so happens, Brutus, Shostakovich was influenced by the same poems of Blok in his Shostakovich Blok Suite, Op. 127

    Speaking of a small world… so it seems as though Blok, Shostakovich, Vysotsky, and Leps are all tied into an interesting poetic-musical-mythological relation.

    • javacat says:

      This is perfect. I’d found the poem by Blok but still needed more on the mythology of the birds. The little I found didn’t really put them in context. These themes are important to understanding the tapestry of the music and lyrics, which are rich and powerful, and to me, resonate on many levels. I wish I could understand the language to better appreciate Leps’ performance, which still comes through as powerful. (btw, the still photo of the band among the flames is amazing).

      While discussing this post, a friend told me a wonderful quote to ponder, especially as at least several of you are musicians, trained in theory, etc. It’s Ayn Rand, from the Romantic Manifesto: “Why does music make us experience emotions?” Why did this song stir great passion in one listener and leave others indifferent or worse? What makes someone ‘get it’ or not, whether in music or literature?

      Admittedly, not the topic of the original post, but seemed relevant still, given the comments.

  11. rg the lg says:

    Music … like religion … can be controversial.
    I liked the lyrics … and, I did try to listen … but being deaf is sometimes just a bit of a ‘blessing’ …
    My interest in this blog is the notion / motion of written words, often crafted well … and thus meaning filled.

    As I said before, man is made of words … it is ultimately what makes us not the non-man rest of existence … music is an expression of sound … often more sophisticated than simple words … but meaning is much in the ear (culture?) of the listener.

    KC, the music is tangential to why I read what you write. An enhancement, assuredly, that expands what you say. It provides insight … but it is not central.

    Should you attach music in the future? Of course, especially when it resonates with you. Should you expect others to hear what you heard? No … just as with words, music is encrypted with special meaning … and that does not translate as well as words without sound. I would however, think that your written words, spoken, in your own cadence would be more powerful than the read words simply because of the nature of their music as language.

    Having said all of that … what virgins?

  12. rg the lg says:

    This was on WIRED … called Danger Room:


    And, the beet goze awn …

  13. Hasdrubal Barca says:

    Thanks for introducing some of us to the art of one Vladimir Vysotsky–what a body of work that man produced over the course of his rather short life. The fact that he pulled it off in the Soviet Union certainly amazes this western soul.

    We may have been somewhat hoodwinked by all the propaganda.

  14. kulturcritic says:

    HB – you are welcome. And at his funeral in Moscow in 1980, it is estimated that over one million people attended. He was the Bob Dylan of Russia. We were, and still remain, hoodwinked on many accounts. all my best, sandy

  15. Disaffected says:


    Let me make amends. I’m not a “music snob” or anything like that. In fact, I’m always shockingly behind the times, rarely recognizing what it is I truly like until long after they’ve gone out of current favor. I consider that a badge of honor. A classic skeptic, if you will. Age (mine) plays a significant factor as well, in that as I get older, I find my musical interests narrowing pretty significantly. Have I not said before? I’m a prick!

    That said, I’m also HEAVILY into lyrical content; which, if you don’t understand the lyrics themselves because of linguistic differences, is a pretty major hurdle to overcome indeed. Agreed?

    By way of explanation, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zep and Queen I “got” almost instantly. The Eagles, Jackson Browne, early U2, Springsteen, Bruce Hornsby, Warren Zevon, Counting Crows, and some of the more blatantly political/cerebral stuff took a while longer. And finally, Goo Goo Dolls and others were a relatively recent discovery that simply got back to basics for me – an altogether great feeling just when I was beginning to feel ancient and irrelevant. I’m sure you know the feeling.

    In short, I wouldn’t worry about or take offense at what ANYONE ELSE thinks of your music. Just put it out there – like your writing – and let the public make it’s choice. It’s their choice to either embrace it or reject it, just as it’s yours to continue to embrace it just the same. Fuck ’em!


  16. kulturcritic says:

    Interesting lyrics

    This may be the current face of anarchy!

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