Mostly, I write trifles about politics. Eight hundred words is my preferred genre, and here are a few examples from my almost 20 years of writing trifles:
2002: Fidel, Monica, and Me
I teach International Affairs at the legendary university in downtown Manhattan, The New School. My courses deal with Global Media and Culture, Politics, Propaganda and Hollywood.
My favorite subject is the former US Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney, an anomaly of American democracy, an exotic flower, a black orchid, a century plant — an Agave Americana that blooms only once in decades. My Dick Cheney contributions so far:
“NSA as ‘Big Brother’? Not Even Close” Reuters, June 28, 2013
“Cheney, Putin Can’t Get Beyond Cold War Talk” The Moscow Times, May 17, 2006
“Brezhnev, Bush and Baghdad” The Nation, May 19, 2003
In fact, my next book will be about this Dick fascination, featuring a catchy title — something like Romancing Dick Cheney, or perhaps even, Chasing Dick. Why complicate things?
While figuring this out, I (with the architect colleague Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss) have curated an exhibition titled Romancing True Power: D20. It ran February 12-26, 2015 at Parsons The New School for Design, 66 Fifth Avenue (between 12th and 13th St). In the meantime my amazing research assistant and student Yiqing Wang (who really should be running not-a-small country) and I have produced a supplement to the exhibition, a D20 Journal, in which we put together thoughts on true power, dicktatroship, dicktatorial fashion, economics, philosophy, body count and other stats.
D20 (modeled on G20, group of most industrialized nations) is a selective list of leaders from present and recent past across continents and different political systems. Romancing True Power investigates an idea of power: autocratic, authoritarian and dictatorial. This type of power–the Dick power–could be found in both dictatorships and democracies. The exhibition looks at dicktatorial construct, its typology and trappings. What constitutes a “strong leader”? Why does the public often prefer one? Since everyone’s list of dicktators is subjective, at the show visitors were invited to PYOD (Pick Your Own Dick). For the Dick winners and more information check out the D20 Facebook page.
Other topics I am fond of include politics, and mostly Russian politics, and, of course, movies. But whatever I do, all fits neatly into the last line of Billy Wilder’s 1959 classic Some Like it Hot, the best ever, “Nobody’s perfect.”
My home town is Manhattan.
My birth town is Moscow.
My Favorite Quotes:
“God has a sense of humor” — Abram Tertz (Andrei Sinyavsky)
“Intuition is a sesame of love” — Vladimir Nabokov
Once, still in grad school and a misanthropic Russian to boot (given our totalitarian history most Russians are unhappy), I wrote a very sad novel Small World, published in Moscow and quickly out of print. But that was a fluke, living in New York I am much happier now. And all in all, my favorite theme is political culture in Russia and America. Politicians lie all the time, but culture never lies about politics. Culture and politics are symbiotically linked like the famous double-headed Russian eagle that used to be on the front of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and now is rotting in the backyard of the city’s museum of architecture. It is the perfect symbol of Russia’s former political and cultural grandeur and current decay. American eagle is just one-headed, of course, yet this country is no less interesting in its own idiosyncratic relations between culture and politics.
My 2010 Foreign Policy treatise on the Russian double eagle and on the eagle’s historic symbolism in general, “No Heads are Better Than Two.” And here is an earlier 2008 take in Los Angeles Times, “Lost in Byzantium.”