Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Сказания о русских святых для детей: Вступление

(This post is part of a series of translations of Aleksandr Khudoshin's Stories about Russian Saints for Children. Explanatory post here.)


Наша книжка называется «Сказания о русских святых». То есть сказание об отцах Церкви, которые родилась и стали святыми в России. Не сказки, а именно сказание, потому что сказки -- выдумка, а мы написали всё как было на самом деле. Но какие такие «отцы»? Чьи отцы? Вот, у каждого из нас есть свой отец, да, это понятно. Но отец Церкви -- это как бы для всех отец. Для всех, кто к нему приходит и обращается. Пришёл богач, с кольцами на руках, пышно разодетый, -- отец Церкви принимает его как родного сына. Пришёл бедняк, худой, плохо одетый, с бледным лицом, -- и его принимает батюшка, обнимает, прижимает к сердцу, плачет вместе с ним над его горем. И наставляет его на нужную дорогу, и помогает словом и делом, иногда и денег даёт. Ну как же не отец? Но среди церковных отцов есть и совсем особые отцы, их называют «старцами».


Our little book is called "Stories about Russian Saints". They are stories about fathers of the Church, who were born and became saints in Russia. Not fairy-tales, but stories, because fairy-tales are fiction, and we wrote about everything as it actually was. But what are these "fathers"? Whose fathers? Now, each of us has our own father, yes, that's clear. But a father of the Church- he is like a father to all, to all who come to him and appeal to him. Should a rich man come, with rings on his hands, lavishly dressed- a father of the Church will receive him like his own son. Should a poor man come, thin, poorly dressed, with a pale face- the dear father will take him, hug him, press him to his chest, cry together with him over his afflictions. And will teach him the necessary way, and help with words and deeds, and sometimes will give money. Now, is that not a father? But among the Church fathers there are very special fathers, they are called "elders".

Translation Commentary and Questions:

I was unsure about what tense to use from "Пришёл богач..." onward. Ultimately I think the hypothetical conditional best reflected the spirit of the original, but if anyone has better suggestions, or thinks I've misread something, do let me know!

More minor uncertainties:
  • обращаться as "to appeal" (something like "to turn to" strikes me as more etymologically accurate, but clunky)
  • пышно разодетый as "lavishly dressed" (especially when плохо одетый is "poorly dressed"). It seems that разодетый doesn't have a precise English equivalent, implying something perhaps along the lines of "decked out"; ie, implying a level of extravagance above the fairly unmarked English "dressed" or "clothed"; again, if I'm wrong, please speak up!
  • прижимает к сердцу translated literally is "pressed to the heart", which isn't something we really say in English. Is it common to replace "heart" with "chest" in contexts such as these, or does it imply something stronger or different?
  • над его горем: over his afflictions? over his sorrows? in sorrow, in grief?
  • нужную дорогу as "necessary way"- is this too literal? Would "right" or "proper" have been more in the spirit of the original?
  • Ну как же не отец? as "Now, is that not a father?" Went largely on feeling, there. Does it work?
  • есть и совсем особые отцы in general confused me. Anyone care to explain the и there (I have a vague memory that it may be related to a superlative construction, but I may be making that up)? Also совсем особые seems to demand something stronger than "very special", but I'm not sure what.

Prologue: Insomnia

When I was a small child, I slept so rarely that the school nurse thought my parents were physically abusing me, because she'd never seen circles so dark under an elementary schooler's eyes. I wasn't (just) afflicted with insomnia- as early as third grade I developed a philosophical opposition to sleep, telling myself that it made no sense to lose hours and hours of life every night to unconsciousness, when instead one could be watching television, reading, writing, or simply thinking.

I recall seeing the sun rise after watching an A&E biography of JFK one morning, my eight-year-old self shamefully wiping tears away and trying to process the emotional roller coaster that was learning about JFK's handsome smile, beautiful wife, glamorous legacy, power to inspire, ability to lead, and untimely and tragic death all at once, all in one hour and a half, alone with nothing but the glow of a television, and ultimately, in my third grade perspicacity, pitying everyone who'd slept instead. Pitying, not because they should've seen the documentary, but because I felt so much wiser, more... lived, at the tail end of those ninety minutes, and couldn't everyone do something like that with all their unused seconds?

Nearly a decade and a half later I again find myself confronted with chronic insomnia, and only now have I resolved, like my eight-year-old self, to try to make use of these wakeful hours. I've given up on sleep, for now, and will instead translate, chapter by chapter, Aleksandr Khudoshin's Stories about Russian Saints for Children.

I picked it up at Alexander Nevsky Lavra in Petersburg, and to my knowledge it's as yet untranslated into English. It's an adorable book, and in its own way, and with the proper sort of reader, profound. I'll be typing up the Russian along with my translations, so if you happen to be a Russophone and disagree with any of my translation choices, please let me know! I'm doing this largely to keep up my meager Russian skills in my year off from class. All entries related to the translation will be marked with the tag СРСД (Сказания о Русских Святых для детей).

An interview

Was just interviewed for about an hour and a half by some folks from Newsweek doing a documentary on the tea parties and the midterm elections. I'm apparently the only person in the entire Yale Political Union willing to defend the Tea Parties, so I was one of their token conservatives. They interviewed me shortly after the debate; happened to be wearing one of my most mis-matched outfits of all time, as all my clothes are in the wash- purple harlequin tank top, bright blue blazer, two different earrings, unwashed, scruffy hair and almost no make-up. Fairly sure I came across as a blithering idiot- as though everything I've been thinking and talking about for the past four years, and my reasons for holding the positions that I do, had flown out of my brain. Really, sincerely hoping they don't use much of the footage. Very, very annoyed that I wasn't able to better use the opportunity.

They asked me where I get my news/who I trust for policy analysis and for some bizarre reason all I could think of in that moment was Cafe Hayek, Robin Hanson and Dan Larison. If that makes it into the documentary... well, I might be alright with that out of allegiance to absurdism alone.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Was sitting outside Bass Library smoking, had just thrown my butt on the ground. Girl walks out, sees it burning there in front of me, looks at me. A pregnant pause, as they say.

"Were you smoking just now?" Felt guilty and embarrassed for not having thrown it in the trash and prepared myself for some admonition about littering or the evils of tobacco, or both.

"Yeah." Her face lit up.

"I'm sorry, can I have one?" Pulled out my pack.

"Need a light?"

"Yeah, I'll just smoke it now, I guess, thank you. Oh, Sobranies?" She takes my lighter.

"Yeah, I was in Russia over the summer."

"Wow, thank you so much, I love these."

Still wanted to throw the butt in the trash after she walked away. Didn't.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Money never sleeps, but the audience, well...

(This is a review of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. There are no spoilers, but you shouldn't care even if there were, because no one should pay to see this movie.)

The line was long, extending through the lobby, down the stairs, out the building and along the sidewalk of what serendipitously happened to be New Haven's own Wall Street, which, in lieu of the world's largest stock exchange, is home to the Yale Law School (take from that what you will).

We arrived a half hour early and were literally the last two people to get seats in the packed auditorium. Before sitting down we were wanded by an overwhelmed-looking security guard to make sure we had no cameras or cellphones with us, which were strictly forbidden from the advanced screening somehow secured by the Yale Film Society.

Two hours later, as we emerged back onto Wall Street, bitchily dissecting the film's vapid preachy tone, inattention to character development and/or depth and/or symbolism, sloppy and inaccurate references to "moral hazard" and butchered summaries of the American financial situation, we paused, not even a block from the theater, having realized that neither of us could remember the protagonist's name.

We knew it started with a J and was probably monosyllabic. I offered to bet on the name with my friend. Though I couldn't remember a single line or scene where any character addressed our protagonist anonyme, my intuition screamed "Jake!", and I'm rarely the type to ignore my screaming inner gypsy.

My friend was leaning toward Jack, but he wouldn't take me up on the bet. Only 20 years old, he's already a tax and finance wonk, and as such (or maybe the causation flows the other way?) he's prone to bouts of "rational decision making," "cost-benefit analysis," "risk management," and other such soulless WASP affectations. Of course, he was right not to- the wailing old Slovak that is the voice of my subconscious hadn't let me down (the protagonist's name was the incomparably forgettable "Jake Moore").

See what I did there, drawing on personality and cultural archetypes to help make what is essentially a non-event into a vaguely engaging narrative whose conclusion largely allows you to draw your own?

If you are looking for anything even vaguely resembling that kind of storytelling, send me the $10 you would've wasted on Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, because at best, that's what it could've been, and it failed to achieve even that.

It was 133 minutes long, roughly 120 of which felt like window dressing for what seemed to be the only two scenes Oliver Stone cared about: Moore's pseudo-scientific babble explaining the wonders of fusion energy to a Chinese investor (accompanied by CGI animations a la first season House- you know, before they realized it was a cheesy gimmick that distracted from the storytelling), and Gekko's bizarre lecture montage explaining the financial crisis, which, y'know, failed to really explain anything, but the hamfisted editing and musical score might trick someone into thinking it does if they don't bother listening.

The Whitney Humanities Center auditorium seats 242 people. Over 200 of my fellow audience goers that night were college students, so I'm not sure if WS: MNS will get quite as many laughs in future showings, but I'm also not sure that Stone didn't intend for some of the more "intense" scenes to garner outright laughter.

"Do you realize what you're asking for here?" asks some suit behind a conference table in the NY Federal Reserve. "The biggest bailout in history." Soap opera-confrontation quality line delivery. Serious Eyes! Serious Forehead! Serious Voice! The laughter begins. "Nationalization. Socialism." The audience loses it. The villainous Bretton James replies, with equal levels of 'I am being so earnest you should call me Jack', "If we don't do this, there won't be any more history."

I am not making this up.

Michael Douglas is largely a pleasure to watch, except in scenes with Carey Mulligan, who plays Gekko's spoiled brat liberal activist Elektra blah blah blah daughter Winnie. All the lines I remember because I liked them (and not because they reminded me of the self-serious bathos of Ed Wood) were his. Bud Fox briefly reappears. It wasn't particularly entertaining- all I remember is that Charlie Sheen's nose has somehow acquired a vaguely Nixoneqsue bulbousness since 1987.

The costuming was also fantastic, and I might recommend this film to aspiring sartorialists just because of the incredible attention to detail. When Jake first confronts Bretton James (played by Josh Brolin), having interrupted some kind of latter day bacchanal/fundraiser of his, Bretton is wearing a sumptuous burgundy suit jacket with a tie that matches in all the right ways, somehow faintly evoking a Doctor Faustus vibe. Gekko more than once wears an absolutely gorgeous jacket with a plaid so subtle it might be missed on the big screen- but look for it, and revel in fabrics and tailoring the likes of which you didn't know existed.

One final note, because this "review" is already too long and I don't feel like getting into the fifty other reasons why this film is vacuous at best: in the original Wall Street Gekko is never seen smoking a cigar, only cigarettes. I, being me, read a lot into this- everyone else in Wall Street who matters smokes cigars- Bud Fox, his father, and Gekko smoke cigarettes. To me this said something interesting about tobacco-as-class-marker, and about Gekko's unwillingness to let go of his lower class past in particular.

In Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, I don't think I saw a single cigarette, and Gekko smoked plenty of cigars. I actually think this makes sense- destabilized, insecure, and with a fraction of the money he did prior to incarceration, he no longer has the luxury or the confidence to play himself down- there's a scene where he greets some other financial bigwig only to be awkwardly brushed aside and ignored- now, he needs every superficial wealth-and-power-signalling accessory he can find, for himself, probably, more than for anyone else.

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Why the Cross, of all deaths?"

"The words of David's true prophetic song were fulfilled,
in which he announced to the nations:

"But if any honest Christian wants to know why He suffered death on the cross and not in some other way, we answer thus: in no other way was it expedient for us, indeed the Lord offered for our sakes the one death that was supremely good. He had come to bear the curse that lay on us; and how could He 'become a curse' (Gal. 3. 13) otherwise than by accepting the accursed death? And that death is the cross, for it is written 'Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.' ( Gal. 3. 13. ) Again, the death of the Lord is the ransom of all, and by it 'the middle wall of partition' ( Eph. 2. 14 ) is broken down and the call of the Gentiles comes about. How could He have called us if He had not been crucified, for it is only on the cross that a man dies with arms outstretched? Here, again, we see the fitness of His death and of those outstretched arms: it was that He might draw His ancient people with the one and the Gentiles with the other, and join both together in Himself. Even so, He foretold the manner of His redeeming death, 'I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Myself.' ( John 7. 32) Again, the air is the sphere of the devil, the enemy of our race who, having fallen from heaven, endeavours with the other evil spirits who shared in his disobedience both to keep souls from the truth and to hinder the progress of those who are trying to follow it. The apostle refers to this when he says, 'According to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience.' ( Eph. 2. 2 ) But the Lord came to overthrow the devil and to purify the air and to make 'a way' for us up to heaven, as the apostle says, 'through the veil, that is to say, His flesh.'( Heb. 10. 20 ) This had to be done through death, and by what other kind of death could it be done, save by a death in the air, that is, on the cross? Here, again, you see how right and natural it was that the Lord should suffer thus; for being thus 'lifted up,' He cleansed the air from all the evil influences of the enemy. 'I beheld Satan as lightning falling,' ( Luke 10. 18) He says; and thus He re-opened the road to heaven, saying again, 'Lift up your gates, 0 ye princes, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors.' ( Psalm 24. 7) For it was not the Word Himself Who needed an opening of the gates, He being Lord of all, nor was any of His works closed to their Maker. No, it was we who needed it, we whom He Himself upbore in His own body - that body which He first offered to death on behalf of all, and then made through it a path to heaven."

"How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise, but opens the way for our return.

This was the tree on which Christ, like a king on a chariot, destroyed the devil, the lord of death, and freed the human race from his tyranny. This was the tree upon which the Lord like a brave warrior wounded in hands, feet and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature. A tree once caused our death, but now a tree brings life. Once deceived by a tree, we have now repelled the cunning serpent by a tree. What an astonishing transformation! That death should become life, that decay should become immortality, that shame should become glory! Well might the holy Apostle exclaim: Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world! The supreme wisdom that flowered on the cross has shown the folly of worldly wisdom's pride. The knowledge of all good, which is the fruit of the cross, has cut away the shoots of wickedness.

The wonders accomplished through this tree were foreshadowed clearly even by the mere types and figures that existed in the past. Meditate on these, if you are eager to learn. Was it not the wood of a tree that enabled Noah, at God's command, to escape the destruction of the flood together with his sons, his wife, his sons' wives and every kind of animal? And surely the rod of Moses prefigured the cross when it changed water into blood, swallowed up the false serpents of Pharaoh's magicians, divided the sea at one stroke and then restored the waters to their normal course, drowning the enemy and saving God's own people? Aaron's rod, which blossomed in one day in proof of his true priesthood, was another figure of the cross, and did not Abraham foreshadow the cross when he bound his son Isaac and placed him on the pile of wood?

By the cross death was slain and Adam was restored to life. The cross is the glory of all the apostles, the crown of the martyrs, the sanctification of the saints. By the cross we put on Christ and cast aside our former self. By the cross we, the sheep of Christ, have been gathered into one flock, destined for the sheepfold of heaven."

- Theodore the Studite, "The Precious and Life-Giving Cross of Christ"

(Tomorrow is the Universal Elevation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, for Catholics and Orthodox! How nice to use the word "universal" in such a sense. It is always the 14th of September. Some people just can't figure out when the 14th of September is.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fun with the Church Calendar

As I was nerdily writing fasts, feasts, and other such things into my planner, I noticed a few coincidences that amuse to varying degrees:

September 13: Vigil of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Creating Cross; YPU debate with Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael Astrue (R: The Yale Class of 2014 Should and Will Receive Social Security Benefits)
"The pagan Roman emperors tried to completely eradicate from human memory the holy places where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and was resurrected for mankind. The Emperor Hadrian (117-138) gave orders to cover over the ground of Golgotha and the Sepulchre of the Lord, and to build a temple of the pagan goddess Venus and a statue of Jupiter.

Pagans gathered at this place and offered sacrifice to idols there. Eventually after 300 years, by Divine Providence, the great Christian sacred remains, the Sepulchre of the Lord and the Life-Creating Cross were again discovered and opened for veneration."
October 6: Glorification of Saint Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow, Enlightener of the Aleuts, and Apostle to the Americas; YPU debate with Maggie Gallagher and Evan Wolfson on gay marriage

"You evangelized the northern people of America and Asia,
Proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to the natives in their own tongues.
O holy hierarch Father Innocent,
Enlightener of Alaska and all America, whose ways were ordered by the Lord,
Pray to Him for the salvation of our souls in His Heavenly Kingdom!"

October 31: Repose of Priestmartyr John Kochurov; Halloween
"On October 31, 1917, in Tsarskoye Selo, a bright new chapter, full of earthly grief and heavenly joy, was opened in the history of sanctity in the Russian Church: the holiness of the New Martyrs of the twentieth century."
January 17: Feast of Saint Anthony the Great, Father of Monasticism; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

"Wherefore, children, let us not faint nor deem that the time is long, or that we are doing something great, 'for the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward.' Nor let us think, as we look at the world, that we have renounced anything of much consequence, for the whole earth is very small compared with all the heaven. ...Wherefore, children, let us hold fast our discipline, and let us not be careless. For in it the Lord is our fellow-worker, as it is written, 'to all that choose the good, God worketh with them for good.' But to avoid being heedless, it is good to consider the word of the Apostle, 'I die daily.'' For if we too live as though dying daily, we shall not sin. ... Wherefore having already begun and set out in the way of virtue, let us strive the more that we may attain those things that are before. And let no one turn to the things behind, like Lot's wife, all the more so that the Lord hath said, 'No man, having put his hand to the plough, and turning back, is fit for the kingdom of heavens.' And this turning back is nought else but to feel regret, and to be once more worldly-minded. But fear not to hear of virtue, nor be astonished at the name. For it is not far from us, nor is it without ourselves, but it is within us, and is easy if only we are willing. That they may get knowledge, the Greeks live abroad and cross the sea, but we have no need to depart from home for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, nor to cross the sea for the sake of virtue. For the Lord aforetime hath said, 'The kingdom of heaven is within you.'"

May 8: Feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian; Mother's Day
Saint John was the son of Salome the Myrrh-Bearer (not to be confused with Salome the Beheader).
May 21: Feast of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine and his mother, Saint Helen; Armed Forces Day
"Today Constantine and his mother Helen
Reveal the precious Cross,
The weapon of the faithful against their enemies.
For our sakes, it has been shown to be a great sign, and fearsome in battle."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Sieve: The Strong-Woman Motif

Given that I may or may not have been literally sleeping in a library for the past few days, I've spent a lot of time browsing shelves. Around 4am a few nights ago I happened upon a dusty old volume titled The Transformation of Russian Society, originally published in 1960. It's essentially a thick collection of academic papers addressing various aspects of Russian and Soviet culture, but the one I'm about to excerpt for you, "The Strong-Woman Motif", stuck out to me. It doesn't seem to be available anywhere online, either, so consider this my mitzvah for the day. Bolded are bits I especially liked/found provoking.
"The glorification of women in current Soviet fiction is more convincing than that of men. The heroine, in contrast to the hero, shows consistently fullness of character: tsel'nost'. It is a multifaceted character of wide range, encompassing positive qualities such as selflessness, endurance, generosity, ability to adjust to stress, ability to solve immediate problems. One of the foremost properties of tsel'nost', a term much less fuzzy than 'wholeness,' is unselfconsciousness. Moreover, in contrast to the man, the woman represents strength which is derived from an ability to relate actively to society, to the collective, to the family.


The strong-woman motif finds no parallel in a series of male counterparts, who, to begin with, frequently stand for ideas. The heroine preempts the hero's place. She might even personify a reproach against the restlessness, escapism, and narrowness found in the Onegins, Chatskys, Pechorins, Beltovs, Raiskys. Strong men seem to be punished for their masculinity and self-assertion with early death. This is the case with Bazarov, Insarov, Bolkonsky. The longevity and softness of the slumbering Oblomov, the giant of low vitality, makes the point.

...Men qua men are disappointing. Oblomov is incapable of the simplest salvation offered him by Olga. The technicalities of a wedding are too much for him. Onegin, stronger by far and man that he is, assumes the frustrating posture of brotherly love...

The singularly non-Victorian heroine gives herself spontaneously and, if need be, commits adultery for the sake of full participation. Tatiana's dream marks the acceptance of Onegin's dangerously evasive reality and her strength is expressed in that frustrating surrender... The very motif of the strong woman makes it possible to mention Ostrovsky's untutored, primitive Katerina side by side with the refined gentlewomen. He presents her as a result of an oppressive milieu of the heavy and cruel kupechestvo. But the important thing is that Katerina acts when driven toward fulfillment. Having enacted the storm of her life, she leaves her weak husband to his desolation and in envy of her courage. Her lover likewise is weak while in contrast Katerina's strength is monumental.


The courage to involve oneself fully was seen in its connection with the feminine ability to love and to act. The nuptial scene in On the Eve is a motto for many novels. Insarov warns Elena of the hardships ahead: exile, poverty, humiliation. To all this she replies: 'I know. I know everything... I love you.' 'Welcome, then, my wife in front of the people and in front of God!'

Elena knows. But Nekrasov's countess, Volkonskaia, does not. A bride at eighteen, raised in the greenhouse of the Pushkin era, she has no notion of her husband's political activities. She hardly knows him. When he is arrested, unquestioning loyalty determines her martyrdom--in her mind, he cannot be dishonorable. ... When she joins her husband in a Siberian mine, she kneels before him and kisses his chains. Astonishing as it may seem, this romantic narrative has never been considered sentimental. This is germane to the argument of the extra-literariness of the motif. Nekrasov measures integrity in terms of commitment to primary loyalty in the face of threats, both intrinsic and extrinsic. If there is anything this young woman knows it is that the state, the tsar, the mighty are wrong. Her loyalty is of an ecstatic nature, and her strength rests in love.

It is notable that the 'strong man' is reluctant to entier into primary loyalties. Chernyshevsky spelled out the program of abstinence for his bristling radical. Innocence, generosity, spontaneity, essential ingredients of tsel'nost', are not Rakhmetov's qualities. He has no drives--he is all brain...

Gorky's victim of 1905, the revolutionary Pavel, admonishes an underground comrade against marriage: 'You shall live for the sake of a piece of bread, for your children, for your house; and you shall both be lost to the cause, both!'

...The denial of love is an essential attribute of the revolutionary man who fears dissipation of strength, diffusion, submersion in autrui...

Oblomov can do only one thing: submit. Raskolnikov's cerebration, far from being submissive, represents also only one state: alienation. The split in Raskolnikov, as the name implies, describes him fully. He indeed stands in contrast to tsel'nost'. In Russian fiction, only a man can be so split. To be sure, only a man can be a Prince Myshkin. The Idiot's impotence, Raskolnikov's alienation, Oblomov's phlegma, all are unthinkable in a heroine."
This will not be the last you see of this article.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The summer's gone, and all the flowers are dying

There is a certain kind of person who, upon watching a hatchling break slowly free from its shell, thinks of nothing but the ghastly stench of the corpse it will one day be.

Some of them write for AmCon:
Even if there is a major opportunity to take power, slipshod Republican organization and fundraising have squandered much of it. Third, there aren’t really enough districts that Republicans can plausibly win to get the majority. To make up for the likely losses in Louisiana, Delaware and Illinois, they will need to win a total of 43 seats elsewhere, and it is genuinely difficult to see where these seats come from. Yes, there are 80 Democratic incumbents in House districts that voted for Bush in ‘04, but the story here is that most of the voters in most of these districts learned their lesson from ‘04 and stopped voting for Republicans, and not enough of them have changed their minds to undo all of the political damage Bush and his allies did to the GOP. Republican failure is too recent and too glaring, and the GOP leadership has done far too little to show that it has learned anything from that failure (emphasis mine - TKB).
If you know me at all you know I love Dan Larison (congrats on the nuptials, by the way!), but the pessimism here is a step too far even for me. If there's one thing Republicans have been doing pretty consistently since '08 it's distancing themselves from neoconservatism, and I know I'm not the only erstwhile third party voter astonished by just how much Obama exceeded our expectations, and not in the good way.

Americans, for better or worse, don't have long memories, and neither do our institutions. Perhaps you're thinking, pshaw, all they've changed are the buzzwords! The rhetoric might ring a bit new, but it's the same voice, the same tune!

At which point I ask you to consider our friends over on Prison Island:

What on earth could a months-old television spar between Julia Gillard and the world's second most attractive world leader (God willing) have to do with countering the splenetic prophesies of Old Man Larison?

They're discussing the controversial "plain packaging" requirement introduced way back in the days of Rudd, scheduled to go into effect in July 2012, which will "force tobacco companies to use plain packaging with graphic health warnings" instead of logos, imagery, or, y'know, colors.

Iron man, former seminarian and all-around dreamboat Tony Abbott apparently passes for some kind of right wing nut job off in the land down under. Imagine my surprise, then, upon watching a clip ostensibly about paternalism and intellectual property rights and not hearing the word "freedom" cross his lips even once!

Regardless of whether those kangaroos ever get their shit together enough to form a government, we all know it's too late for them. But observing their election these past few weeks has made me appreciate just how ideological (contra technocratic) American politics has managed to remain over the years, and even if all the GOP's figured out since Bush is that they need to pay more lip service to libertarianism and less to war- well, at least we want to hear the right things.

Granted, no less than Silouan of Athos said "Keep your mind in hell, and despair not." Dark Days Dan is certainly helping us with one half of that prescription.