Best Of Everything

The Year is overThe 2014 year is at its last legs. Two days ago, Contra Spem Spero…Et Rideo blog turned 2 years old. A toddler. Terrible 2s just started gaining tempo. Today, the WordPress, bless its heart, sent some year-end fireworks and a complete yearly report on my year 2014 in blogging.

According to the Wordpress, my most popular posts — and numbers don’t lie — were the ones tagged “morbid” and “death” (multiple deadly accidents on Everest, pictures of dead people, including embalmed Vladimir Lenin in a namesake Mausoleum etc), followed by “sex” and “human sexuality” (depiction of copulation of various insects, mostly) and, regardless of content, everything with pictures of naked bodies — the more and the more life-like — the better, had become a perennial attrction. Which is to say that yesterday’s Spencer Tunick feature with images of mass nudity was a hit — although paintings of old masters in “art” fared well, too.)igroved_labyrinth_08

What can I say? Ask the question Who are you people? Or exclaim delightedly My kind of  people!  Or simply hope against hope that you’ll visit this page next year for a smile and more of the same… and more… “death”, “morbid”, “human sexuality” and other 1095 tagged topics. Cheers!


Blog Blogging Bloggers

Happiness. Private collection. Russia

Happiness. Private collection. Russia

In the vastness of blogosphere anyone has a chance to find like-minded folks to share one’s opinion on absolutely everything one can think of, from subjects of extreme sophistication to, say, love of tomatoes, hate of cucumbers or indifference to potatoes.

I H a t e C i l a n t r o . c o m, for instance, has nearly 4,000 faithfuls, all fighting cilantro wherever and whenever this pesky herb dares to manifest its presence. 

Cilantro.The most offensive food known to man. Welcome! You are visiting the web site of a growing community of cilantro haters.  …No normally functioning human being would ever in a lifetime consider cilantro edible.

The people blogging on celebrate what they consider to be their best feature — prominent monobrows, the glorious unity of their eyebrows.

At, we don’t view having one eyebrow as a grotesque, freakish human deformity. On the contrary. We think you are special… The kind of special where people look at the hairy, catipillar-like growth above your eyes and say, “Oh my God! What the hell is that thing?” You’re not alone… (From the Mono Bro Manifesto, original spelling respectfully preserved.)

The Original Site About Lip Balm Addiction is My name is John and I’m a lip balm addict… Psychodrama to follow.

Blender brandishing folks of bonded and blended with their blenders.  Obsessively blending everything with everything else, they search for an answer to life’s persistent question: Will it blend?  Much to their delight, most things do. No gruesome accidents reported yet.

The Ice Chewers Bulletin Board is all about Chewing Ice. This is an excellent place to express depth of emotions that overwhelms avid ice-chewers while they are ice-chewing.

Statue Molesters from around the globe — — share impressions of their relentless pursuit of sculptures and various indoor and outdoor installations… with intent somewhat different from that of your average art-lovers. Find  statue — make it smile. Hundreds of stories and pictures from every place on the planet where the objects of this peculiar obsession are found and — ehm — molested.   More stories are rolling in daily.

The jolly boys and girls of  lovingly designed their site to suit the exquisite tastes of those who love to expose their bare bottoms (bare — like in naked, bottom — like in ass) to the passing Amtrak trains. I suppose, trains need to smile too. They do it often. Note, their site is designated as .org.

If you are looking for the slightest reason to crack a smile but do not feel like visiting the site, look up the answers to selected FAQs that any aspiring Amtrak-train-mooner of the world needs to know:

  1. Must I “moon”, or can I just watch? No, You can watch and/or take photos.
  2. Does It get hot here in July? Yes, mid-day it is usually about 95°F (35°C) and humid.
  3. Are pets O.K. to bring? Yes, you can bring your dog, cat, snake, parrot, or iguana. Don’t forget water for them.
  4. Can radio & TV stations photo this event and conduct interviews? Yes. See paragraph above.
  5. Can I decorate my butt? Yes, that’s O.K.
  6. Is Amtrak associated with this? NO, neither Amtrak nor Metrolink have anything to do with this “show” except operate the trains.
  7. Can the physically handicapped get around this area? Yes, a wheel-chair should work just fine. There are no stairs to climb. Close-in car parking spots are gone by 7 am.

If you are still reading, it means you aren’t lost, following one of the links I so carelessly provided, and came back safe. If you checked out all of them, perhaps, an inner cilantro-hater-lip-balm-addict-and-suppressed-Amtrak-mooner in you suddenly decided to leave everything behind and embark on a quest to find statues to make’em smile? Happens all the time…make it smile.

Photographer Gabriela Herman “immortalized” a number of famous bloggers, presumably in those sacrosanct moments when they were doing just that — blogging. Or pretending that they are, for the sake of a good shot.  None of them represent the sites mentioned above. Caption under each image is the name of a blog.

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Singing In The Rain


If you’d happen to be in Boulder, Colorado, today, this is pretty much what you’d see looking out of your window, and so it has been for the past three days. Some views might not be quite as photogenic, though. Force majeure rarely makes pretty pictures.  It seems, Mother Nature grabbed Heaven by the crumpets, squeezed really hard and wouldn’t let go. Another day, and Boulderites turn into swamp creatures. And no one is singing in the rain. Perhaps, the steady noise of the falling water drowns the voices… Generally, we do like rain and ask for it. Next time we ask, we should specify the desired quantity. Too much of it  in too short time makes us sad people, and for a darn good reason. There is an ominous feeling — readily supported by the National Weather Service — that we haven’t seen the last of that dastardly weather.

Your tendency to see the worst in every situation will rob you of any pleasure you might have otherwise derived from next Thursday’s biological-disease outbreak. (From The Onion. Warning: Dark humor. Would’ve sounded funnier in the sunshine.)

This is my 100th post. Since December of last year, the number of posts on this page exceeded statistical life expectancy, the average summer high temperatures in Colorado and a good number of other marks, but still — or so I hope — remains lower than my IQ. But not for long, if I won’t get washed away into the Atlantic with the rainwater, and keep on blogging.

Contra Spem Spero…Et Ridere is largely a whim based blog, eclectic at best. It does not cater to anyone’s tastes but my own, and it is not devoted to any particular subject matter. As long as have something amusing to share, I write. The category cloud of this blog come up to 153 categories, which is insane, I know, and mostly due to my initial lack of understanding of what “category” means, and how it is different from “tag”, of which I have a whopping 210 before this post. It is nice if people visit and find my posts even mildly interesting or entertaining. But being consistently interesting or entertaining isn’t easy. Keep this in mind if through some improbable turn, you ever become one. If you are already — then keep up pace, and good luck to you.

It just occurred to me how many “positively charged” words in English begin with letter E. Entertaining, excellent, energetic, exhilarating... Even eccentric and eclectic qualify, whereas F words are often negative: fickle, feeble, fraud, failure, not even mentioning the “real” f-words. Fabulously fascinating phenomenon, isn’t it? Or maybe not — just a frivolous thought… It’s still raining in the Foothills, you know. General gloom discourages bright ideas from visiting, and this is a sad fact of gloomy people’s life.

Painting by Valentin Gubarev

Painting by Valentin Gubarev

This is a postcard to myself — to lift up a depressive mood. Just look at those cheerful faces! Remember: Depression must be met with a smile. Depression will think you are an idiot and run away. 

Rain or shine — smile!

On Benefits Of Speaking In Tongues

Following the subtle fawning over the Russian Esquire and juxtaposing it to its venerable American progenitor, I planned a post on an entirely different subject. But then, I noticed a glaring error in my previous post. I wrote “right from the bat” instead of “right off the bat.” The idiom references the ball coming off the bat after a successful strike, which is then followed by the batter making a quick decision to run towards first base.

Obviously, I’m no baseball fan. But this isn’t as sad an admission as that of my not knowing the make up of English/American idioms. Well, now I know the origin of the saying and I won’t mutilate this one in the future. There are plenty of others I can easily mutilate. Or misuse.

Sometime in May, I’ve got this comment to my post Intellectual Democracy And A Hunt for “Qworty” from the reader. I’ll copy-paste it here as is:

clearly like your internet site nevertheless you need to consider a take a look at the spelling on fairly a couple of of one’s posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I discover it very bothersome to inform the truth nevertheless I will definitely come back again. 手機殼

Well… It was nice of the reader to point out my spelling shortcomings. To make spectacular mistakes in English is my least favorite way to dazzle. And that’s the truth.

This linguistic annoyance  reminded me of another occasion where I made an ass of myself doing exactly that – misusing an idiom. It happened about 3000 years ago, when my Russian accent was a lot more cute/charming/awful/horrible than it is now. I bumped into my then manager in the hallway. “You are such a busybody, Gwen!” I said happily, brown-nosing in a companionable way.  What did I mean to say? Yep. It’s obvious. She was in a hurry, looking awfully busy…

Watercolor of Victoria Kirdiy

Watercolor of Victoria Kirdiy

The very instance the words escaped my mouth, it occurred to me that I blurted out something dreadfully inappropriate. Dear God! Give me strength to keep my mouth shut until I get a grip of English idioms! Granted, the aforementioned Gwen was, indeed, a busybody, an amazingly nasty piece of work. It was Freudian slip. Happens even to the best of us, even if we are perfectly bilingual or speaking in our mother tongue…

After this incident — and countless other — I forswore reaching into the golden repository of English idioms and resort  to making my own.  It seemed safer this way. It still is. I stuck to my resolve for a good 3000 years, until a blogging bug bit me in the butt.

Stories like this one are plentiful. If you have Russian friends who speak with cute/charming/awful/horrible accent, you’ve probably heard one or two anecdotes in the same vein. Poor souls got thoroughly embarrassed, lost their sleep over it or even their jobs in some hilarious (in the hindsight) situations. “You are cunt doing the expeRRRiment zis vay!” That’s a friend of mine, a brilliant chemist, talking to his boss on the third day of his employment at a chem lab. Guess what he wanted to say.  Yep. You can’t conduct an experiment this way. He lost his job then, all right, but he owns the lab now, because he was right, “you are cunt doing the expeRRRiment zis vay!

Victoria Kirdiy

Victoria Kirdiy

Funny how we want to flaunt it when we got it…

Once, starting a new job, I was introduced to a crew of coworkers as “a specialist from Russia”. Immediately, one of the guys stood up. He was tall, dark and handsome– really, not proverbially. He had mustaches. He blushed and, haltingly, in surprisingly serviceable Russian, pronounced a phrase, which, in close approximation, meant something along the lines, “I’ve had a carnal knowledge of your mother and I wouldn’t mind to make your acquaintance. Wanna f**k?” I’m not as mature and unrestrained a blogger to allow myself  a more precise translation.

His eyes shone. The guy  was proud of himself. He looked at me expectantly, hoping for a compliment. I won’t disclose his name. We’ve become good buddies soon afterwards.

I blushed and not with pleasure. Random thoughts in my head were irrelevant. His mustache looks funny. I’ve heard somewhere (it was 3000 years ago, remember?) that in Alabama there was a law, which forbids wearing mustaches that could set off laughter in church…  To force a smile one has to activate nearly 40 facial muscles. To squeeze a trigger – 4…

Victoria Kirdiy

Victoria Kirdiy

A group of my new colleagues was listening in, smiling broadly and nodding, proud to have someone who could greet a newcomer in her native tongue.

Merely to show that above my Russian roots I grew a trunk and a few branches, I smiled an American smile, and inquired where his bad language in such good Russian came from. As expected, it came from his Russian friend who taught him a few simple and unimaginative Russian curses, assuring him that they’d be a sure-fire endearments — music to any Russian ear. Apparently, he had no idea what the words meant.

My Russian ears burned. To this day, 3000 years after the incident, Russian profanities offend me a lot more than badmouthing in any other tongue I know and speak. Truth be told, I use all sorts of swear words often and always in vain myself,  in Russian without accent and in English with, just ask my friends. But this was different, don’t you see?

Enough of that already. Generally, I don’t live out loud and share minutia of my life — Ah, well.


  • Language that isn’t your mother-tongue is always foreign.
  • A person is defined by the choices he/she makes. Not reading this post would, probably, be a good start. But it’s too late now, isn’t it?
  • Smile!

Rejoice, Writerly Brethren!

You might’ve not noticed a new jewel of writerly blogosphere Tuesday Fiction Writers. It is still fresh and innocent, but we hope, in time, it’ll mature into a showpiece of… well, something-or-another. As one of the TFW site administrators, I sincerely hope that our blog page won’t become a repository of whimpering posts where writers complain to other writers about how awfully hard it is – impossible, really – for a novice writer to get published his/her groundbreaking novel about writers, complaining to other writers about how to find readers. There are plenty of those already, both blogs and published novels.

With the abundance of great talent (including mine, of course) anything is possible. Just watch us. As of late, we have livened up our page with a fab picture of a silver-cased quill as our header image.TFW

Looks lovely, isn’t it? From here, sky is a limit. Where Sky is the uppermost layer of blogosphere, the place where the sun is shining all the time, the moon comes and goes as it pleases, always full and yellow like a smiley face.

Seriously, now.

This post has to do with the topic, suggested by Nana Mizushima on the TFW blog page, about a New York Times editorial with the enticing title  It can happen to you,  oups! 47 Rejections, Then the Booker Long List, featuring  Donal Ryan, the writer who made it. 

Writers are incessantly fascinated by other writers, especially the great and/or successful ones, and endlessly interested in their torments, creative pitfalls, moral shortfalls, personal hygiene and rugs to reaches life stories.

My main impression of the article, however, was bafflement.  Not like in “perplexity” but rather like in “bemusement”.

If I were to find this article posted on one of the writer blogs, where writers, after complaining to other writers… start telling happy tales of someone actually making it in these impenetrable jungles in spite of every adversity, it would be OK with me. Nobly and gently, these blogs serve as virtual support groups for despondent masses of aspirants, and the stories of someone’s success infuse some level of optimism into some writers – tomorrow it might be me, Me, ME! But New York Times editorial offering a muddled message of solace?

More than one muddled message, actually:

1. Rejoice, writerly brethren! Don’t lose hope because good — really-really good! — things (Pulitzer prizes won, manuscripts pulled out of slush piles and published) sometimes happen to good — really-really good! — people who may or may not be better writers than you, You, YOU.

These stories hearten struggling writers and everyone else who struggles too. They allow us to believe that our luck could change at any moment; that if we persevere beyond the point of reason and perhaps good taste, we may finally succeed. (Quote from the article)

2. Things in publishing industry are bad — really-really bad! — and getting progressively worse.

These stories, finally, tell us that a healthy book industry is a diverse one, in which it’s possible for a talented author to knock on several doors before resorting to self-publishing. The more gatekeepers, the better the odds for the next Donal Ryan.

As it happens, the industry is going in the opposite direction. The news about Mr. Ryan came on the heels of a merger between Penguin and Random House to form the world’s largest publisher, with more than 25 percent of the global book business. Assuming the merger unfolds in the usual manner, the company will announce layoffs due to “redundancies,” meaning fewer imprints with fewer editors looking for the next Donal Ryan. (Quote from the article)

This is pretty much the whole editorial. I’m sure the editorial board means well and is perfectly sincere. A good number of very dirty Russian jokes about good intentions and their unintentional outcomes immediately comes to mind.

Seriously now.

Jeff Nishinaka

Jeff Nishinaka

Let’s veer into a bit of sarcasm here, to brighten up the mood. Unless you live in a different world than I am — which shouldn’t surprise either one of us — the easiest way to become a published writer – often even before you conjure up your magnum opus – is to become a celebrity. Or an overnight sensation or some sort. It’s not a simple task for a simple folk, but happens even to the worst of us. More frequently to the worst of us, I’d say, but I cannot support my opinion by any reliable statistics.

Unless the choice is obvious and “genetically predetermined”, choose your path to celebrity carefully, try hard, like really-really hard, and reach for the stars. Become a Rock Star, for example. A Sports Star… Or a Movie Star. A Star Witness in a cinematically compelling mob trial of the century (You have to hurry and publish your book before being assassinated, although sales might soar precisely because you’d be dead). 

Get convicted of a crime you haven’t committed, spend 20-odd years in prison and voilà!  Do something extreme. Shock them out of their minds. You have to be extremely inventive to go to extremes these days, when everything mind-boggling seems to have been invented already… Short of murder, which seems to be perennially in vogue… Ah, well.

Get yourself into real mess with booze, drugs, sex, and violence (choose your vice), experience epiphany, however briefly, gather a group of followers, invent a religion… Simpler yet, get some dumb video, making a fool of your person, pray it’ll go viral… then wait for a flock of agents sniffing you out – you already have a million of prospective readers… As you can see, possibilities are aplenty, none mentioned in NYT editorial.

Well, as New York Times assures us, “Such things happen.” The ways of the Almighty are unbeknownst and endlessly befuddling. Confucius must’ve said something smart on the subject as well.

I Stole, Sie Stahlen, Ты Украл, We Steal Stolen

On Jan. 31 of this year I’ve published a post with a cute title Roll Your Shit And Follow The Stars! It had to do with dung beetles, the Milky Way and everything in between.

Months later, someone named Manuel commented on this post, complaining that it used, without permission, an image he created, and that he had no intention of offering it to anyone for free.

I emailed Manuel information about the origins of the image I used, which was a Russian site where every image is free for all.

Manuel countered that the image was stolen from the site he listed it for commercial use and was posted on various Russian sites, often photo-shopped.

Indeed, dung beetles rolling all kinds of shit — green balls, table tennis balls, TV- station-logo-engraved Ping-Pong balls etc.–  happily reside on numerous Russian sites, such as,,, (where I’ve got it, signed by the name which isn’t Manuel’s).

For unspecified number of minutes I used a default vernacular in my native language to express my feelings about the situation. Oh yes, I put quite a few excellent Russian profanities into a good use right about then.

Afterwards, I emailed Manuel information about the origins of the image I used, which was a Russian site where every image is free for all, and I put the entire text of the email into the comments to the post.

Also, I bitterly complained to everyone who was inclined to listen to my lamentations, “Can you imagine… Who could’ve known…”

“Russians are stealing pictures from the Internet? Big deal! Relax. Chinese steal even more!” some of my Russian friends commented.

Right. Perhaps they do. But to use this as an excuse would be like saying, “My son is a thief? Hey, look at my neighbors – they have two sons and both are thieves!”

Paraphrazing (and badly mutilating) a Russian writer, Either he stole a coat, or a coat was stolen from him – one way or another he was involved in some murky affair.  That’s pretty much how I felt, which isn’t a pleasant feeling, to say the least.

Perhaps,because Manuel hailed from Germany, I remembered a story from a family folklore I’ve heard many (many!) years ago. Very rarely, if ever, I resort to biographical minutia in my posts, but this one sounded almost like a fable…

In the 70s (past century it was, to be sure) my cousin, a ranked Soviet Army officer, was stationed in the East Germany (the former Democratic Republic of Germany, that is, or, rather, was), at or near the picturesque (isn’t everything in Germany picturesque?) village.

My cousin was endowed with a Nordic blond appearance and spoke seviceable German. His job was PR. In today’s parlance, he was designing ways of winning the hearts and minds of local population with nothing much to show for it.  By his own admission, the job was no cakewalk, although his German kept improving with every passing day.

Mostly, he had to deal with a steady stream of local folks, lining up at his office doors since early morning to complain. Majority of their complaints had to do with thievery committed by the Russian soldiers stationed in their picturesque, previously crime-free village. Predominantly, it was petty theft, such as stealing a tin can of paint left outside by an unsuspecting fence painter.

“Donnerwetter! Herr Schwartz stepped inside to get a glass of water. He came out a minute later, and his paint was gone! Herr Schwartz caught a glimpse of a uniformed Russian soldier, tin can of paint in hand, turning the corner.”

“Why would you steal a can of f*ing paint? What would you do with the f*ing can of paint?”  This was my cousin speaking in tongues, German not being one of them.

“Comrade Major! It was just sitting there… unattended, and no one was looking!” was an answer.

No wonder the locals wished that every single Russian thief would spontaneously combust, preferably all of them, and at the same time.

Eventually, the stiff punishment was imposed for thievery. Anyone caught stealing was immediately court-martialled. Satisfying instinctual urges to lift stuff when no one was looking stopped making any sense whatsoever…

Much to my officer-cousin’s dismay, the stream of villagers, lining up by the doors of my cousin’s office, failed to diminish as might’ve been expected. Quite to the contrary, in a short period of time it increased tenfold. The village was ravaged by unprecedented wave of pilfering and burglaries.

As it happened, petty thieves from all over Germany kept arriving to the village, hoping that  their crimes would be blamed on the ill-reputed Russian soldiers. Locals caught on to it eventually, but it took them a long time, a lot of grief, and it’s another story altogether…

The moral of all of this? Don’t steal images and use them in your posts… unless absolutely necessary, like it’s the matter of life or death. If it is, then steal them from some obscure Russian sites. It might or might not happen to be stolen from some other site, which — god knows — might’ve stolen it too… Or not. If not — and you get a comment from the rightful owner — you always can say you didn’t know. Or you can say that Chinese do it all the time! Or you can provide the info of the site you’ve got it from and why you were under impression it’s free and available.

Manuel had emailed me that he was able to contact the person who photoshopped and re-posted his (Manuel’s) picture I’ve found and used. They came to some sort of amicable agreement. It makes me feel a little better.

The pictures used in this post  — I’m almost sure — is a stock photos. If someone can claim it as his/hers, please let me know, and I’ll provide all necessary info about the site I’ve got it from.

String’em Up, Corrupt The Spirit!

львы и скрипачкаOne fine evening (or, perhaps, morning or afternoon), Kevin Drum, a prolific dr… oups! nearly misspoke, no, not drummer, but blogger (Mother Jones), was sitting on the sofa somewhere in the world. By his own admission, he was having trouble coming up with anything to write about, browsing through the Entertainment section of the LA Times. And, lo and behold, the topic jumped at Kevin soon enough, and just stonkered him. He was stumped.

As far as I can tell, after having read a fair number of his posts and articles, Kevin Drum is not easily stonkered or stumped by anything. When he is, however, Kevin Drum can easily whip up a few riotous lines on the offending subject.  Here is Kevin quoted verbatim:

In the LA Times today, classical music critic Mark Swed reviewed Yuja Wang’s performance of Scriabin’s Sixth Sonata. He says Wang played it for “beauty and thrills”:

But she also raced through the sonata, treating it as something to be so fully mastered that it might lose its power to corrupt the spirit with its huge portions of musical decadence.

I love this. Not just because I don’t understand a word of it. That’s to be expected since I know essentially nothing about music. I love it because I can’t even conceive of how someone might come up with that particular string of words to describe a musical experience. Where did they come from? What was going through Swed’s mind when he put them down on paper? Did this thought occur to him naturally, or did he have to work hard on that sentence to make it express the way he felt? And did he really feel that the tempo of Wang’s performance was somehow motivated by a desire to cut through the sonata’s “power to corrupt the spirit”?

I have no idea. It’s like reading Ulysses. Or perhaps a description of a cricket test. The words are demonstrably in English, and the syntax makes sense, but nothing else does.

Anyway, you can probably tell by now that I’m having trouble coming up with anything to write about today, so at this point I’m just blathering. But I sat down on the sofa with the newspaper a few minutes ago and then Domino jumped onto my lap. I didn’t want to toss her off right away, so I gave her a few minutes of snoozing by reading the whole entertainment section, including Swed’s review. And it just stonkered me, especially the sentence above. But let’s give this post a veneer of seriousness anyway by turning it into a teachable moment. For those of you who know music better than me (a lot better, hopefully), read the review and discuss in comments. What should I have taken away from it? (Read original post here I Am Stumped by This Music Review)

What can I say about Mr. Swed’s article that Kevin hadn’t?

See for yourself what the young and the mini-skirted Yuja Wang does to Alexander Scriabin — truly spirit corrupting stuff. Innocent spirits everywhere! Keep away from anathema!

This YouTube clip is not of Ms. Wang’s recent performance reviewed by Mark Swed. And the reference to Ms. Wang’s skirts isn’t the harping of my corrupt spirit — rather, it’s in the spirit of the Mr. Swed’s article:

“…a Bond girl who was also Houdini and Horowitz rolled into one, in her demonstration of startling dexterity despite physical restraints. Towering high heels didn’t hamper her deft pedaling, no matter what Newtonian mechanics might otherwise suggest.”   


Yuja Wang – Scriabin, Selections for Solo Piano

I read a fair number of various reviews in my lifetime, musical and whatnot, and some — god help me! — did some damage to my fragile spirit.  Similarly hilarious, smartly stringed up and grammatically impeccable verbiage can be found in reviews of, say, poetry.

“Admittedly, the tolerance of brutal postmodernism didn’t lower metaphorical existentialism of the conceptual perversions of her reflexive nerve. None of the author’s poetic evocation provides enough buoyancy to get one past the structural coral reef that her verses erect: between the reader and any reason to care…” 

How’s this for enlightenment and poetry appreciation? Never mind the poet or the poem. Bask in tidal waves of many well turned-out words — they are demonstrably in English… What if I told you that I’ve come up with this gibberish all on my own –?

My long-neglected Smile page is updated with two new cartoons. Smile! Corrupted spirits thrive on crooked smirks.

Inorganic Intelligence And His Girl Kimberly

Taking inventory of my posts, I noticed that, as of late, an inordinate number of them references one or another organic matter. And I mean “organic” literally. Skull-centric, too, due to the proximity of the royal skull-and-bones of my last post to the Memento Mori  header image.

Indeed,  the ode to King Richard III old bones was preceded by a discourse on  shit-rolling, stargazing dung-beetles and a serenade to the cute Neanderthals, happily impregnating our 30,000 year old female antecedents…

The latter, however, might’ve not happen at all, according to the recent updates from Oxford. Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens never crossed paths, in spite of the undeniable fact that traces of Neanderthal DNA were found in people living today, especially Europeans.  Now it is claimed that Neanderthals and modern humans are distantly related sub-species of Ancient Human. Remember him? Yep, from Africa…

All right then. Let’s shift our inquiring eye away from skulls, flesh, shit and organic matter, even if it once belonged to royals. Short of, say, painstakingly reconstructed genitals of the lost and found Richard III Plantagenet, what else is there to hope for?

Hence, I felt highly enthused having found a topic of interest that has to do with highly inorganic world, that of digitized data, pixels and artificial intelligence.

Not such a huge leap after all, because the two worlds meet often and, sometimes, even collaborate to an unexpected effect.

Chris R. Wilson, a filmmaker of wholly organic composition, found a collaborator who happened to be just as wholly inorganic as Mr. Wilson is organic.  As Bianca Bosker, Executive Tech Editor of The Huffington Post and the author of the article A Machine Reviews a Film Made by a Machine reports,

“Mr. Wilson’s  latest screenwriting collaborator has a sharp tongue, quick mind for pop culture references and, perhaps best of all for Mr. Wilson, doesn’t need to be paid. The screenwriter is no ordinary human, but an artificially intelligent chatbot called Cleverbot, capable of holding text-based conversations online.”

The glorious brainchild of this collaboration of organic and inorganic intelligence was the short film Do You Love Me.

Before the film’s first frame, to make our mouths fall open in anticipation, perhaps, the following words appear on the screen: has been touted as one of the most advanced artificial intelligences ever.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that smart-ass has manufactured this self-congratulatory laudation as well.

The reaction of the article-reading and/or movie-viewing audience to both the movie and the HuffPost article varied from a rather unsophisticated “HAHHAHAHA” and “Just F#@ing brilliant” to the more refined “Bleh. Enjoy and cherish your precious human life in a flesh and blood body.”

Frankly, I wasn’t overly impressed with either the movie or the article. One HuffPost commenter writes,

“Contrary to what the author states, creativity remains thoroughly mysterious and untamed in AI (artificial intelligence), as does intelligence in general.”

I side with this assessment unequivocally (see Konstantine for more.) Indeed, where AI is concerned, the triumphal march of technology sounds more like a disjointed cacophony of unfulfilled prophecies.

…The organic process in my brain that creates odd associations where none exists, suddenly threw me some 20 years back, down the memory lane. In those dark ages, Neanderthals looked pretty much like they look today, give and take a few sartorial oddities, and most of the computer games they played were stored on CDs.

Raise your hands if you remember those times. Do I see show of hands? I thought so.

One such game, an interactive program, combining chat and animation, was designed specifically for heterosexual males, presumably adult. In its virtual world, heterosexual-presumably-adult-male could meet and develop virtual relationship (through dialogue, nothing kinky here) with his virtual dream girl. The “girl” was capable of holding text-based conversations, just like intelligent chatbot Cleverbot.  Virtual is a key here. The world was still young…

Several animated “types” of girls were on offer: voluptuous frilly blonde, exotic vamp, freckled red-head etc. The most risqué type was a vaguely S&M leather-clad creature brandishing non-threateningly looking whips and chains.

My then coworker, Sam (not his real name, his real name was Mike), introduced me to his girl Kimberly, a pixilated animation of a garishly painted brunette with beehive hairdo. Nothing exotic, just dumb. However, this was my opinion, freely expressed now but wisely held to myself then.

Sam, mind you, was a highly skilled programmer and, to my mind, should’ve been the last person to fall for a “dreamboat” on CD! Of all people, he knew exactly why and how his girl Kimberly was capable of carrying endless intelligent conversations in which her gentle and caring disposition shined through. According to Sam, Kimberly was also an expert at psychedelic whimsy. Hell-lo! The organic matter within his skull must’ve gone solid.

“Why, Sam? Why?” I appealed to his temporarily absent common sense.

“Susie,” he said. (Susie isn’t my real name, you know what is.) “Susie, what do you know about –”

“About AI?”

“About loneliness…”

…I seem to have missed my train of thought somewhere between then and now. So much for the superiority of organic intelligence. Ah, well…

Hope Against Hope You Aren’t Quoting Shakespeare

Tiago Hoisel | Creative Tempest

Tiago Hoisel | Creative Tempest

Made a huge mistake of reading various suggestions on how to become a better blogger, about 172,686,012 articles in all, give and take a few. Now, safely back from my discovery-packed journey to the how-to universe, I found myself incapable of discovery-unpacking.  Waste of time it was, I’ll confess.

My heartfelt advice to fellow bloggers everywhere: To become a better blogger, avoid getting stuck reading other people’s advice, however brilliant, on how to become a better blogger. Just write and post. Or don’t post. Read a book or a clever blog post. Make a mental journey to a parallel universe where you are an unemployable cockroach… to blog about it tomorrow.

If it’s hard to kick the self-help habit, then seek other people’s advice on how to become a better person, follow it and become one… if only to blog about when and if it happens.

In Cicero, Pixels and Synchrophasotron there is a phrase (as they say, quote yourself when not quoting Cicero):

Majority of elemental subjects – time, life, death, children and book writing among them – got a pretty thоrough coverage over the ages, and it is getting harder and harder to come up with a weightier, more profound utterance.

To embellish the point: If something sounds reasonably clever and you are certain Cicero didn’t or couldn’t possibly have said it, then you ain’t quoting Cicero. Very likely you are freely borrowing from Shakespeare, not even being aware of it.  Bernard Levin said it best in his famous passage – one awfully long, impossible to rattle off in 24 seconds sentence. No 24/7 for this baby!

Broken up and formatted for ease of reading, here it is:

 You are quoting Shakespeare

  •  if you cannot understand my argument, and declare “It’s Greek to me”;
  • if your lost property has vanished into thin air;  
  • if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy;
  • if you have played fast and loose;
  • if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle;
  • if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, had too much of a good thing;
  • if you have seen better days or lived in a fool’s paradise;
  • if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it;
  • if you believe that the game is up even if it involves your own flesh and blood;
  • if you suspect foul play;
  • if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then – to give the devil his due – you are quoting Shakespeare;  
  • if you bid me good riddance and send me packing;
  • if you wish I were dead as a door-nail;
  • if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot.

If, on the other hand, you insist that your iPad is your best friend and the love of your life, then you are NOT quoting Shakespeare. It’s only if you suspect this makes you sound like a blinking idiot, then you are… quoting Shakespeare.

Riding Ridiculous Bicycles

Законы Мерфи4

Another Rafal Olbinski’s poster. Would be perfect to illustrate a blog about Twitter or a twit about blogging…


Thus far, this is my tenth blog post, which is in no way changes my status of a novice blogger. It’s not the number of post per se that propels one to the ranks of an ace blogger, rather, it’s being totally cool about  who reads your posts, if anyone, who “likes” you, “follows” you, “shares”, “comments” and whatnot. I’m still self-conscious and mighty fascinated with all of this. WordPress monitors your little blogging universe and nothing slips it’s notice. I’m far from cool and, by Zeus, I do still give anus rodentum its due.

I didn’t study the tricks of blogging before or after I posted my first post, naively hoping to learn from my own experience. The first lesson I learned was that in blogging, like in everything else you do, it’s always better to learn sooner than later and, preferably, from someone else’s mistakes rather than from your own. If you don’t learn from others, you are trying to invent the wheel and, while struggling with it, you might find yourself riding a bicycle that looks ridiculous even to those who “like” ridiculous bikes.

“Every asshole is on funny_and_weird_bicycles_24Facebook these days and likes you,” a friend of mine said the other day with a sigh, logging in to his Facebook account. Asshole isn’t a nice word and, truth be told, he didn’t, actually, say asshole. Plainspoken person that he is, he used different word altogether, the one that starts with the same letter as Facebook, has the same number of letters and ends with the same four letters that Facebook starts with. Hint: it’s a very bad word, even worse than asshole. I don’t have Facebook account, and not because I don’t want to be grouped with people who have. 

As they say, there are facts and there is statistics. Statistics is very encouraging, it’s what’s behind it isn’t so much. Of the nine  blogs I posted, a few were “liked”, some more than others, but way too often for all the wrong reasons. 

Below, I list some amusing results of my short but glorious twinkling in the blogosphere. My posts were “liked” by the following people/sites or “followed” by the likes of the following:

  • Those who think Contra Spem Spero is either cool bad-word combination or sexual position they hope yet to experience.
  • Plumbers – most likely because of the joke  My wife is cheating on me with a plumber  on the Smile page.
  • People and sites affiliated in some way with cows, live stock and beef industry (a single cow picture on my Smile page must’ve caused this to happen);
  • Those who like Russia but dislike Putin, dislike Russia and Putin,  like Putin, like Putin shirtless, like Putin with a rifle, like Putin’s rifle;
  • Bird people – those who like, hate, watch, photograph, staff, save, eat birds, particularly cranes, Siberian and otherwise;
  • Those who like, build, photograph, construct, design gliders, hydroplanes and such, both real and toy ones;
  • Those fascinated by skulls;
  • Those who live and die by Murphy’s laws;
  • Those who hate oligarchs, Russian and otherwise, as well as those who hope to join their ranks one day;
  • People who think that Latin is cool, and those who think Latin stinks;
  • People who think that French is cool but Depardieu stinks and vice versa;
  • Those who like pretty pictures and (sic!) little girls in pretty dresses (god only knows why).

If you don’t care who to follow, you’ll never find yourself having been mislead. Sounds like yet another Murphy’s law, the one for bloggers, wouldn’t you say?

Makes me wonder if people who ride, own, design  build or like pictures of ridiculous bicycles will “like” this blog. And another axiom: Not to be surprised by the obvious and the preposterous is an absolute must for any ace blogger.

I posted a picture of a cow made entirely of… cowboys on my Smile page. Check it out.  Beef industry affiliates  must like them cows made entirely of cowboys. Smile?