“Do Marines like cake?” “Does God have a butt?” Conversations with a five-year-old

“Do Marines like cake?” “Does God have a butt?” Conversations with a five-year-old

“Mommy, you’re a hippo.”
“I’m a what?! Why?!”
“You’re a mommy hippo. Because I want to be a baby hippo.”
“Oh.”
“I’m a baby hippo, but I’m also Denzel.”
“So like a baby hippo whose name is Denzel?”
“No, sometimes I’m a baby hippo, other times I’m Denzel.”
“OK.”
“Mommy, you’re also a baby strawberry.”
“WHY AM I A BABY STRAWBERRY?”
“Because it sounds nice. Daddy is a watermelon.”
“OK.”

***

“Are Marines allowed to ride in elevators by themselves?”
“Yes.”
“Do they have guns?”
“Yes.”
“And unicorns?”
“What?”
“They wear unicorns?”
“Uniforms!”
“Mommy, you’re laughing too hard. You’ll pee yourself if you don’t stop.”
“Says the kid who accuses Marines of wearing unicorns.”
“Do Marines have to eat dinner?”
“Yes.”
“What if they don’t like their dinner?”
“I’m pretty sure they just buck up and eat it anyway?”
“So they don’t cry?”
“Not over stupid stuff like dinner.”
“What do Marines cry about?”
“Serious stuff. Probably.”
“Like when people die?”
“Like when people die.”
“Does everyone die?”
“Eventually, yes.”
“Do Marines like cake?”
“Of course they do.”  Continue reading ““Do Marines like cake?” “Does God have a butt?” Conversations with a five-year-old”

Laura Palmer and the end of the world: news of note from me

Laura Palmer and the end of the world: news of note from me

It’s Independence Day, and I am sad to be so far away from home. Instead of whining about it, though, I’d like to present you with a round-up of the interesting things I’ve done lately and which you might have missed (especially if you don’t follow my Twitter):

For example, I recently looked at the legacy of Twin Peaks in the post-Soviet world (did you know? The original show had a cult following there in the 1990s) and discussed it with Marco Werman on PRI’s The World.

I have to add that I feel like we’re really lucky that David Lynch was not interested in pandering to nostalgia when he set out to make Twin Peaks: The Return. Will hopefully be able to devote more writing to that this summer – particularly since for years I’ve been able to observe how turning nostalgia into yet another natural resource has made much of mainstream Russian culture into something sadly provincial.

Speaking of non-provincial Russian culture, however, I have also written about Andrei Zvyagintsev’s new film, Loveless, which recently premiered in Cannes. Loveless is fantastic and, I think, ultimately a much angrier movie than Zvyagintsev’s Oscar-nominated Leviathan. It’s the anger that appeals to me greatly.

Of course, my REAL big news is that The Fox Head Barks Facing Seaward, my newest short story, was published in Strange Horizons last month. I’ve had a love affair with Strange Horizons since college, and I’m really glad that it was this story in particular that has found a home there. Fox Head works as a kind of protracted echo of this earlier story, but it’s also its own thing.

Over at the Anti-Nihilist Institute, I’ve had some strong words for fake Russia experts. And the Woke Vets series has continued, with me interviewing Tim Hardin, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan (where he served as a USASOC soldier), on everything from civilian casualties to the importance of free public education.

In Politico, I discussed the recent French election in light of Russian meddling (would not have personally gone with that headline either, but I guess winning is in the eye of the beholder). I think this piece of mine on BNE actually nicely balances out the Politico one – by pointing out that Putin is not some superhuman Bond villain (though he’d like you to believe that).

Finally, I was recently on the Power Vertical with Brian Whitmore and Mark Galeotti. We started out discussing the dueling messages of the Kremlin and the Russian opposition, and wound up discussing Pornhub and the importance of political sex appeal, which is what happens when you have me on your podcast.

Life advice for when the mind is full of scorpions

Life advice for when the mind is full of scorpions

When life has gotten strange, and it’s more than you can handle, the absolute worst thing you can do to yourself is go, “Well, of course. Of course this would happen. Because this always happens to ME.”

This locks you deeper into the general awfulness. This *cements* the awful. And makes you more likely to subconsciously choose the paths that will lead you to more awful in the future.

What happens is only part of the general plot. The other part is how you react. Such an obvious point, but so easy to miss when you’re under heaps of stress.

Many years ago, I was in a stressful situation. I was worried about events not under my control. I couldn’t sleep. I had also recently read Macbeth, and set about re-reading the play, convinced that the not sleeping thing was not accidental. Macbeth shall sleep no more, etc.

I hadn’t stabbed a sleeping guest to death in cold blood, nor executed a potential political rival’s family and servants, but those were details. Continue reading “Life advice for when the mind is full of scorpions”

His Sin, Her Soul: On Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (republished from The Second Pass)

His Sin, Her Soul: On Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (republished from The Second Pass)

Original publication date: MONDAY NOVEMBER 30TH, 2009. Republished with kind permission from John Williams.

His Sin, Her Soul
By Natalia Antonova

Reviewed:
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

The luster of scandal wore off Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita a while ago. Anyone reading the testimony of Roman Polanski’s teenage victim on The Smoking Gun must have little capacity to be shocked by Humbert Humbert’s fictional crimes. I’m willing to bet that for the modern reader, the only shocking thing about Lolita is how the writing transforms the subject matter into a thing of startling beauty, and how effortlessly Nabokov avoids prurience in order to create something more chilling.

But while the scandal of it may have faded, the book’s vocabulary continues to live a life of its own. When a young girl is called a Lolita, we imagine a knowingly hyper-sexualized child, one who wears too much of her older sister’s make-up and lets her underwear peek out as she wanders into the peripheral vision of some man. If “Lolita” isn’t always code for “she was asking for it,” it’s at least a suggestion of some impropriety or mitigating factor, an indication that an older man’s younger victim wasn’t exactly a gentle-faced virgin — or she certainly didn’t look like it, Your Honor.

In light of this cultural appropriation, I wasn’t surprised when a fairly good friend asked me why on earth I — a stridently vocal survivor of sexual abuse, someone who screams her head off every time someone shrugs that “boys will be boys” — would profess so much admiration for Nabokov’s most famous book. Don’t I realize that Lolita the book and Lolita the term feed off one another in the public sphere? And that even if it were possible to separate it from the hiss of cultural static that has amplified around it over the years, Lolita is still a book that takes an extremely ugly story and makes it extremely gorgeous? Implicit in these inquiries was the real question, of course, which emerged after my replies failed to satisfy: “How can you stand reading it, with everything you say you have been through?” Continue reading “His Sin, Her Soul: On Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (republished from The Second Pass)”