Leaving Berlin

A nice read, I don’t particularly read novels, and only made it halfway through this one, but it did become an interesting read at that point. Don’t particularly want to make the time to continue, maybe another day.

“In exile you learned to get by, principle an extravagance you could no longer afford. A lesson he thought he knew, all those years of it, and then thrown away in one heedless refusal. Would it have mattered, giving them names they already had?”

“Brecht sighed and leaned against the wall. “It’s my last country here. Denmark, Finland, Russia, those idiots in Hollywood – I look at my passport and I feel tired just looking” “


Nothing is true and everything is possible

I have always found it very difficult to describe experiences in different countries, Moscow perhaps, makes the top of that list. I feel this book does a good job of that very task, bringing out the various different elements to one’s experience in Moscow rather well. Each case study, if they may be so called, highlights a different aspect of life in Moscow, and if not for the depth of each study in itself, then for the fact that they all occur in one place, at the same time, I enjoyed this book, as I can well relate to the “weightlessness” describe within the book’s pages.


“They were both lewd and refined, cunning and naive. Only in Moscow did they make sense, a city living in fast-forward, changing so fast it breaks all sense of reality, where boys become billionaires in the blink of an eye.”

“Then you wake up and my god you’re a convict”

“We move from gym to open-plan office to coffee bar to French movie to wine bar to holidays in Turkey, and it could seem better than Paris; better because it’s newer and more precious. And we can read SNOB or watch the funnies on TNT, and its a simulacrum of the whole democratic thing. It feels almost real. But at the same time the other, real Russia rumbles on like a distant ringing in the ears. And it can grab us and pull us in at any moment.”

“The mothers come to the generals, beat and weep on the doors of the commanders, cry about their sons’ freedoms (money by itself is not always enough; you have to earn the emotional right to pay the bribe).”

[So that’s why they’re always crying. Never understood that before, why so much theatre.]

“But even when you know the whole justification for the President’s war is fabricated, even when you fathom that the reason is to create a new political technology to keep the President all-powerful and forget about the melting economy, even when you know and understand this the lies are told so often on Ostankino that after a while you find yourself nodding because its hard to get your head around the idea that they are lying quite so much and quite so brazenly and all the time and at some level you feel that if Ostankino can lie so much and get away with it doesn’t that mean they have a real power, a power to define what is true and what isn’t, and wouldn’t you do better just to nod anyway.”

I don’t find myself nodding so much because it is difficult, but more because one cannot expect the people who live there, who have internalized it, to believe that another reality exists. The admittance that news is fabricated in Russia, is the admittance that news is fabricated in the west; that politicians are corrupt in Russia is also the admittance that politicians are corrupt in the West; and so what difference is there really, we Russians remains better off with what we have than anything the West can offer. It is that very loss of reality, the lack of truth, that makes anything possible; and if the possibility of anything is what the West offers, then it is no different to the Russian way; and if not, then why give up the Russian way wherein everything is possible. How to live, with ourselves, with one another, seems to remain the question of the ages. In Russia I feel a disconnect between the practicality of that question and its theory, a favor towards theoretical discussions, resulting in mass experimentation; experiments that can never be blanketed across the vastness of its land or that of time, and a population found enslaved to whichever experiment is happening in their particular space and time. This results in a give and take without conclusion, experiment conducted here, price for it paid there; conducted now, price paid then. I see no conspiracy, no group behind it all, no master conductor, the experiments just continue, resulting in no more than experiments of their own.

Statfor decade forecast

“There is no decade without pain, and even in the most perfect of times, there is suffering. The crises that we expect in the next decade are far from the worst seen in the past century, and they are no worse than those we will see in the next. There is always the expectation that what we know now as reality will define the future. There is also the belief that our pain now is the most extraordinary anguish that has ever been. This is simply narcissism. What we have now will always change — usually sooner than we believe possible. The pains we are having now are merely the normal pains of being human. ”


The Prince

What a brilliant book.

“Seeing that someone had written upon his house in Latin the words: “May God preserve this house from the wicked,” he said, “The owner must never go in.” 🙂

“A wise man ought always to follow the paths beaten by great men, and to imitate those who have been supreme, so that if his ability does not equal theirs, at least it will savour of it. Let him act like the clever archers who, designing to hit the mark which yet appears too far distant, and knowing the limits to which the strength of their bow attains, take aim much higher than the mark, not to reach by their strength or arrow to so great a height, but to be able with the aid of so high an aim to hit the mark they wish to reach” Continue reading


“When we want culture more than potatoes, and illumination more than sugar-plums, then the great resources of a world are taxed and drawn out, and the result, or staple production, is, not slaves, nor operatives, but men, – those rare fruits called heroes, saints, poets, philosophers, and redeemers.”

Henry Thoreau, Life without principle

“A little red wine, vintage record, some Ambien … and magic!”

Elon Musk, Shareholders’ meeting, June 2017

“Human beings don’t like things that are unexplained. We want the comfort and sense of safety that comes from predictability. Perhaps as we are evolved biological organisms, uncertainty is unsettling to us. And, in the scientific era, we assume a material understanding of causation.

That’s what the idea of determinism represents in a simple, easy-to-grasp way. We want to be in control, to be able to manipulate nature to alleviate the problems that we face in a finite life in a finite world. We want our causes to be simple, real causes, and that is perhaps why the metaphor of the gene as the atom of causation in life is so easy to absorb, and its subtleties so easy to overlook.

We are made very uneasy by things that are only probabilistic unless, as in coin-flipping, we can sense what’s going on. When we can’t see it, and causation is many-to-many, that is far too much for our minds to deal with easily. Yet that seems to be the reality of the world.”

“If we’d needed a sermon, we’d have gone to a church. If we’d wanted to hear poetry, we’d have gone to the theater. From UN officials — especially from leaders of the UN Secretariat, when they’re invited to address the Security Council — one expects an objective analysis of events. Clearly you haven’t managed this.”

  • Vitali Churkin, to Stephen O’Brien on Syria

“What will it take to tame the fire, and to remember that fire can be a companion to invention? To understand that for fire to play its companion role, those who use it are required to bring a lot more thought, a lot more rigour in their thinking, a lot more thoughtful detail in their doing, a lot more investment in time and focus to understand the rich complexity of people living in the social realm?”

  • Njabulo Ndebele

“To me the greatness of a country is not measured in its size or the number of tanks it has, but in its citizens’ quality of life and their attitude toward one another. And also in its economy. If we had a normal economic system in Russia, its merchant fleet could be one of the biggest in the world. But it’s not about industry changes — some deep and global changes in the whole country are required.”

  • Mikhail Voitenko


“But what is confounding is the degree to which, to cite Jean-François Revel (who was a friend of mine as well as of Wolton), knowledge of the past can go tragically unused, and how the same mistakes, the same wilful ignorance, can return – and not always, pace Marx, as farce.”

“Putin alone has the right to decide who stays and who goes, and not because this one stole or didn’t steal, but because “that’s how it’s done” in the backroom battle between economic entities for an ever-shrinking cut of the financial and material resources available. And if people get this idea into their heads, they begin thinking of themselves as the arbiters of the political process. And rulers consider that more dangerous than even the most monstrous corruption.”

  • Georgy Bovt


“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

  • John Stuart Mill

“I have quietly, without any pomp and noise, moved to Karabakh, bought a mill, begun grinding grain . . . checked prices for sheep,” Sterligov told Gordonua.com. “Where else would I go? Not to the US, where same-sex marriage is permitted . . . nor to Europe, knowns for its gender perversions . . . Nor I have anything to do with the Muslims, for I am a Christian man.”

German Sterligov


Ah the things people say 🙂

“Indeed, like Goebbels, Surkov understands that when public life and private expression can be turned into theater, there is no difference between performance and reality. ”


“I thought he was an old man,” Paul said of Willie, whose radio persona was the “ol’ cotton-picking, snuff-dipping, tobacco-chewing, stump-jumping, gravy-pot sopping, coffee pot dodging, dumpling-eating, frog-giggin’ hillbilly from Hill County, Texas.


“Human drivers think Orion is illogical because they can’t grok Orion’s super-logic. Perhaps any sufficiently advanced logic is indistinguishable from stupidity. “


“Swallow a toad in the morning and you will encounter nothing more disgusting the rest of the day.”
N. Chamfort
“My songs are of time and distance. The sadness is in you.”
-William Gibson
“А в комнате опального поэта
Дежурят страх и Муза в свой черед.
И ночь идет,
Которая не ведает рассвета.”

“But Fear and the Muse take turns to guard, the room where the exiled poet is banished, and the night, marching at full pace, of the coming dawn, has no knowledge.

Anna Achmatova


“Liberty requires accepting the freedom to offend, yes, but it also allows people, institutions and communities to both call for and exercise restraint.”


It is this combination of freedom and responsibility that I find most misunderstood by those with whom I discuss such matters every now and again. Complete freedom, though permitting of all things, and perhaps even though at times necessitating all manner of things, does not imply the doing of all such things. Liberty, providing the potential, the possibility, even the context for an action, should rarely if ever be the motive for that same action. The spirit of restraint is not restraint in the name of not offending or not hurting; the spirit of restraint is the spirit of acting motivated by reasons worthy of being acted upon.