Saturday, June 25, 2011

Russian Lit- What Russians Like and Why


            Russia is famous for its literature. However, the writers that are the most famous in the West are not the same as the ones the Russians appreciate. There are several reasons for this.
            My 2005 undergraduate honors thesis framed and resolved the paradox: “How can the Russian people support President Putin and still value democratic norms?” I defined a democratic norm, I showed that Russians did indeed want democracy. I illustrated how Putin has acted against those norms. Finally, I resolved the paradox. How can Russian people want both of these things, Putin AND democracy?
            One example I gave was how little attention Russians pay to Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn won a Nobel Prize. He lived in exile in Vermont for years.
I took 9 classes at St. Petersburg State University in Russia during my senior year of college on an exchange program with the University of Texas. Out of the 9 classes I took there, I made 8 A’s and 1 B. The class I made a B in was a Russian Politics class and the professor and I got into an argument about Solzhenitsyn. I said, “He won a Nobel Prize. He’s been fighting for the people of Russia his entire life even when he was living in exile in America.” The professor would not budge. Solzhenitsyn was a bigot and an idiot to her. That is the only class I got a B in at St. Petersburg State University. 
In my thesis I argued that Russia was at the time suffering from wide-spread political apathy. In my experience, Russians were excited to be free to go about their days and live their lives, to enjoy their families. They’re not all that interested in expending energy to instigate yet another Revolution. It is often the case in Russia that change brings about a worsening in the quality of life for the average person rather than an improvement.
The same reasoning can be applied to why Russian people don’t care much for Tolstoy (Tolstoy means 'fat' in Russian) . Tolstoy spends a lot of time preaching to people about morality. Russians don’t want to hear that. Russians read Dostoevsky in school and it depresses them. Dostoevsky intended his work to be read by the elite. He wanted them to understand the trials the destitute face. After experiencing the Ruble crash of 1998, most Russians do not need to look to Dostoevsky to learn how hard life is.
The quintessential Russian writer is Alexander Pushkin. He actually wrote a lot of revolutionary pieces that never got published due to the tyranny of Tsar Nicholas I. Russians love Pushkin because he talks about love. The best Pushkin poem is "I loved you".
My favorite Russian writer is Anton Chekhov because I believe his work to be timeless. Life will always be filled with scenarios of people sitting around bored and disappointed with life.
My favorite quote from any Russian work is from Uncle Vanya when several people are sitting around in such a situation and a man looks to a map of Africa on the wall and says,I suppose it is frightfully hot there right now.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Leningrad- Hero City" Sign Placed So Travelers from Moscow Must See It

Leningrad- Hero City
Citizens of Moscow, Russia, I have found, are largely unaware of the feelings some residents of St. Petersburg feel toward them.
            During the Great Patriotic War, WWII, the city of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) was surrounded by the Nazis and cut off from its supply lines for 900 days. 1 million people starved to death inside the city. Peter is built on a swamp so there was nowhere to bury the bodies.

That means that these people were surrounded for 900 days by 1 million rotting corpses, while they themselves were starving, freezing, and being bombed and shot at. Nothing like that has happened in human history since the Old Testament of the Bible. It was literally Biblical. Nothing like that happened in Moscow.
            When I was going to school at St. Petersburg State University I lived in downtown Peter, right across the street from the Moscow Train Station on Ligovsky Prospekt.

            There is a sign that was down the street from my apartment that reads, “Leningrad-Hero City” and I believe city planners had a purpose for putting that sign where they did.
            Everyone who travels by train from Moscow to Peter must disembark at the Moscow Train Station. The closest subway station to that train station is called Mayakovskaya. In order to reach that subway station, people coming from Moscow must walk in the direction of the Leningrad-Hero City sign for about 10 min.
            So that means that every person who has ever traveled from Moscow to Peter via train, and has continued on to the nearest subway station, has walked in the direction of that sign for 10 min.
            I think it’s fair to say that both President Medvedev as well as Prime Minister Putin have seen that sign a few times. (Both Medvedev and Putin are Peter natives.)


Mayakovskaya Station is where the Red Line meets the Green Line. See Pic of Train below intersection.


Friday, June 17, 2011

"Profile of Europe" By: Sam Welles (1948)


 I'm in the process of writing a proper book review of my grandpa's book, Profile of Europe

In the meantime, here are some photos and excerpts:


My grandpa's book.
           
On back of book:

Sam Welles
Author of Profile of Europe is an associate editor of Time and one of its top foreign news writers. During the war he served for three years in the State Department and in our London Embassy, where he was the Special Assistant to Ambassador Winant.
            At Oxford University, on a Rhodes Scholarship after Princeton, he took an honors degree in modern history. Ever since 1935 has spent a considerable part of his time traveling over Europe. In one thirty-nine month period he logged more than 100,000 miles from Connemarra to Constantinople; and during the Conference of Foreign Ministers in Moscow he walked more than 300 miles through that city and its suburbs. In the months that followed, he visited sixteen other countries, making his way across most of them by car. His equipment-including extra cans of gas, spare tires, tools, food and mountains of documents- would almost have outfitted a polar explorer.

Here is my favorite section of the book because it gives insight into its real purpose. 
Profile of Europe is a plea to the Western world, 
a guidebook on how to avoid war with the Soviet Union. 

“Should America attack Russia?
          Lincoln's statement, "This government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free," is often quoted at you. Then the arguer adds, "Wouldn't Lincoln say that of the world today?" He would. That does not necessarily mean war. Lincoln did not say America would have to go to war with itself about slavery. He spoke in 1958, and war was very far from his thoughts. 
          If Americans, north and south, had known in advance the toll of the Civil War (from which the states that started the shooting have never completely recovered), the Civil War would almost certainly never have been fought. Most Americans now know in advance the toll another war could take. There are many Russians who do not know it because of what the Kremlin hides- on, for example, the atom.
            Fear- of Russia, of responsibility, of every tangible and intangible possibility the future may hold-leads some Americans to say, ‘Drop the atom bomb on Russia now.’ Fear has started a lot of wars. It has never finally settled anything and never will. For America to attack Russia with atom bombs or any other weapon, as Japan attacked us, would be insane. Militarily it would not be the quick, cheap victory its advocates claim. Morally it would not solve a single American dilemma. It would only pose more and worse dilemmas. If America lets its fear of Russia lead it into conquering Russia, we would then- by the insane logic of fear, fear ourselves and everything else in the world. Just as the scared men in the Kremlin, having conquered the Russian people as much as they can, now fear themselves and everything else in the world. 
          High-minded people, who want to abolish slavery in Russia and everywhere else, also quote Lincoln's sentence. They usually think the Civil War was fought over slavery. It was not. It was fought over states' rights. When Lincoln became President, some time after several southern states had seceded and formed a Confederacy, he did not advocate the abolition of slavery or suggest that as the cause for going to war. The issue was whether a state which had acceded to the union had the right to secede. Late in 1861, Lincoln removed General Fremont from his command for freeing slaves in Missouri. It was not until January 1, 1863, and only with grave misgivings about the strict constitutionality of his course, that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves. Slavery was not settled in the Constitution until three amendments were added between 1865 and 1870. The issue of fair treatment for Negroes in America has still not been settled. 
          American's favorite fallacy is that you can legislate goodness. You can't. The Supreme Court has used those three constitutional amendments to justify the constitutionality of many things their drafters never dreamed about, but they have not brought justice for the Negro. ”





Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Joe Louis' First Memory - Margery Miller Welles


A founding author of Sports Illustrated, my grandma has been 
nominated to join the International Boxing Hall of Fame. 

Margery Miller Welles -my grandma- witnessed one of the 
most important sporting events in American history in 1938 at age 15 when 
her father took her to Yankee Stadium to watch Joe Louis fight Max Schmeling. 
For her Wellesley College thesis she wrote a bio of Joe titled, 
"Joe Louis: American" which was published before she graduated in 1945 and 
reviewed by Ring Magazine founder Nat Fleischer and Eleanor Roosevelt. 


My grandma's Wellesley senior thesis- "Joe Louis: American"
“By the time he was four years old, he was the errand boy for the family. One of his earliest memories is that of being given a basket full of fried chicken by his mother, to be delivered to his older brothers, who were picking cotton in the fields.

‘After I got out of sight of the house.’ Joe says, ‘I wanted powerful bad to lift up the cover on that basket. I wasn’t going to do anything wrong- just look at that chicken and maybe smell it, ‘cause it was warm and I knew it would smell good. So I lifted up the cover and looked inside. Oh, my, how that smelled! I sat down under a shade tree, and I really got to work on that chicken. When I got to the fields and my brothers saw what I had done, they whipped me good but it was worth it.’”





Sunday, June 12, 2011

Foreign Service Exam Suggested Reading List

This is what the U.S. Department of State sent me when I contacted them back in 2011:



Current Affairs:

US NEws and World Report, the economist

some major daily newspaper

journals such as foreign affairs or foreign policy

English language usage:

The elements of style by Strunk, W and EB White

Chicago Manual of Style: the essential guide for writers, editors and publishers

US (culture, foreign policy, history, politics)

Davidson, JW Nation of Nations: A narrative history of the american republic

Feagin, JR and Feagin, CB RAcial and Ethnic Relations

Goldstein, JS and PEvehouse, JS International Relations

Hirsch ED, KEtt, JF, and Trefil, J The new dictionary of cultural literacy

Norton, MB A People and a NAtion: A History of the United States

Rosati, J The Politics of United STates Foreign Policy

Woloch, N Women and the American Experience

World History and Geography

Atlas of the World

Craig, AM The HEritage of World Civilizations

Rumer, B and Zhukov, S Central Asia: The Challenges of Independance

Skidmore, TE and Smith, PH Modern LAtin America

Economics and Public Policy

Hall, RE and Papell, DH. Macroeconomics: econoic growth, fluctuations, and policy

Mankiw, G Principles of Microeconomics

Rushefsky, ME Public Policy and the United States: At the Dawn of the 21st Century

Shultz, GP and Dam, KW Economic Policy Beyond the Headlines

Management and Human Behavior

Gerrig, RJ and Zimbardo, PG Psychology and Life

Gleitman, H Fridlund, AJ and Reisberg, D Basic Psychology

Griffin RW Fundamentals of Management: Core concepts and applications

Moorhead, G and Griffin, RW Organizational Behavior: Managing people and Organizations

Schneider, S. and Barsoux, J. Managing Across Cultures

Twomey, DP, Employment Discrimination Law: A manager's guide: text and cases

Communication and the media

Doinick, JR The Dynamics of Mass Communication: Media in the Digital AGe

Houston, B, Bruzzese, L and Weinberg, S The investigative reporter's handbook: a guide to documents, databases, and techniques

Itule, BD and Anderson, DA NEws Writing and Reporting for Today's Media

Morrison, T., Conaway, WA. Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands

Osborn, M. and OSborn, S Public Speaking

Samovar, LA, Porter RE, and McDaniel, ER Intercultural Communication: A reader

Computer Applications

Faigley, L The Longman Guide to the Web

Parson, JJ and Oja, D New Perspectives on Computer concepts: comprehensive

E. Spencer Miller's Obit From Railroad.net

E. Spencer Miller - "Uncle Spence" - was my grandma - Margery Miller Welles' - brother. 

Margery was one of the founding authors of Sports Illustrated and she's been 
nominated to join the International Boxing Hall of Fame. 

Uncle Spence was a 33rd degree Mason.

Here is Spence's obit as printed in Railroad.net. 
by MEC407 » Thu Sep 01, 2005 12:03 pm
E. Spencer Miller has passed away at the age of 97. He is believed to have been the longest-serving president of a Class I railroad. His employees had a great deal of respect and admiration for him, which contributed to the uncommon level of pride they and their families had in the Maine Central.

Here is his obituary:

SCARBOROUGH - E. Spencer Miller died at Piper Shores in Scarborough on Aug. 12, 2005.

Mr. Miller was born in Springfield, Vt., in 1908, the son of Edward W. Miller, inventor and machine tool manufacturer, and Grace Spencer Miller.

Mr. Miller attended Dartmouth College, interrupting his academic education to work as a machinist for Jones arid Lamson Co. At Dartmouth he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year and delivered the valedictory address at the graduation of his Class in 1931. In 1934 he graduated from Harvard Law School and engaged in the general practice of law in Lowell, Mass., with the firm of Spalding and Gira.

In 1937 Mr. Miller joined the legal staff of the Boston and Maine Railroad and in 1940 became general attorney for the Maine Central Railroad in Portland. In 1946 he became general counsel, in 1947 vice president, and in 1949 first vice president and director. He succeeded to the presidency of the Maine Central and its subsidiary corporations in 1952, a position be held until Jan. 1, 1978, thus serving longer as a president of a class 1 railroad than any other. Mr. Miller remained as Chairman of the Board until 1981.

For over 30 years Mr. Miller successfully resisted take over attempts to combine the Maine Central with less sound properties, which he felt would harm Maine, its industries and the employees of the Road.

Other railway activities involved a long term tenure as Director, then Senior Director, of Railway Express, more terms as Director of the Association of American Railroads than any other, and then several terms on the eight man National Railroad Labor Conference. In 1970, in collaboration with Alfred Perlman of the Penn Central, he organized and directed the Eastern Railroad Association with membership including all roads north of Virginia and east of the Mississippi. Upon retirement in 1981 he became a consultant for the Maine Central and Ashland Oil.

In December of 1977 Mr. Miller was honored by the union employees of the Waterville shops and presented a gold pocket watch 'in appreciation for his care in finding work to keep the shops operating and busy in good times and bad.' Mr. Miller believed he was the only railroad president honored by a union in such a way. No thanks meant so much to him as the watch from those he served.

Other business affiliations were directorships of Bancroft and Martin, Rolling Mills, Bates Manufacturing, Dragon Cement, First National Bank of Boston, Great Northern Nekoosa, Keyes Fibre, and Maine National Bank.

Mr. Miller contributed in the civic fabric of New England as well. He served as director of the Maine Development Credit Corporation throughout its existence, several terms as director of Associated Industries of Maine, several terms as director of both the Portland and Maine Chambers of Commerce. He was a member of the Committee of 100 for the Portland Museum of Art. He represented Maine and New Hampshire for several years on the Alumni Council of Dartmouth, and for 10 years as Overseer of Dartmouth's Hanover Inn. Mr. Miller was a thirty-three degree mason, a member of the Cumberland Club, The Portland Country Club, as well as of the Union Club in Boston,

Mr. Miller was an avid outdoorsman. He loved his vegetable garden, and until the age of 88 would travel each summer in his pickup truck to Vermont to cut, split and load his firewood for the coming winter. Mr. Miller was devoted to his Red Sox. He witnessed Babe Ruth strike out Ty Cobb in 1919, and of course relished, more than-most, their miraculous comeback in 2004. He rarely missed a game. A voracious reader and thinker he was, literally, a walking encyclopedia.

Mr. Miller was predeceased by his wife of 56 years, Juanita Fownes of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia; and his son, Edward F. Miller who died in 2003.

His daughter Anne Emmet of Oldwick, N.J.; son, Charles Miller of Thetford Center, Vt.; and a sister, Marilynn of Toledo, Ohio survive him.

Mr. Miller was buried in Springfield, Vt., at the Summer Street Cemetery on Aug. 29. His funeral will be held at the State Street Congregational Church in Portland on Sept. 29, 2005 at 2 p.m.