We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata WTF of the day

For a young man of 18 or 19 years, the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic.

…As distinct from the relaxed and non-traumatic way in which men of other ages can deal with it, presumably.

Some context

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Boris Nemtsov was gunned down on the northern end of the Moscvoretsky Bridge, directly in front of the second closest to the camera of the green lamp-posts. In the background: St Basil’s cathedral on the right, the wall of the Kremlin on the left, Red Square in the centre. A more dramatic backdrop for an assassination in Moscow is hard to imagine.

We are here to help

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“Hello. Is that the Ministry of Tourism? I’ve just been captured by ISIS, and I’d like to make a complaint. A very strong complaint”.

I’d like to reassure my mother that I was not actually in Syria, but in Lebanon just across the border when my phone picked up a Syrian network. Also, the guys from Hezbollah who asked me questions about why I was taking photos were really quite friendly.

One night in Beirut

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There’s nothing funnier than an electronic billboard showing a Windows error message, so obviously I stop to take a photo.

A man comes up behind me. It is a solider in fatigues with a gun. “No photo”. This is a little tiresome. I attempt to point out that I am attempting to take a photo of a billboard, and what possible security risk could this be, but (as always) this is futile. Also, do you have any idea how easy it would be for me to take a photo of *anything* with modern technology without you realising it? But I know the rules, and they are rules. I accede and walk on. There are various security barriers and roadblocks nearby, so there is sensitive stuff nearby – government buildings, I think.

I block further, there are more security barriers, a guard post, and a soldier on duty. I am unsure I am allowed to walk down the road. I point down the road and beckon to the soldier, politely. “It’s okay to walk down there?”.

“Oh, sur.. Where are you from?”

“Australia”.

“O wow”. (Excitement). “I love Australia. Where Australia?”

“Sydney”.

“Oh, great!!!!. I was in Granville”.

(Fairly nondescript westerly but not extreme westerly suburb of Sydney, probably best known to me as the location of Australia’s worst rail disaster in the 1970. Perfectly pleasant place).

“Yeah, man. Granville”

“Where are you going?”. He now wants to give me directions. I wasn’t asking for directions – just wanting to know if he would stop me if I tried to walk down the street. However, if he wants to give me directions, I’ll let him give me directions. “Monot street”.

“Oh, about 200 metres that way. Have a great time”.

“You too. Come to Australia again some time”.

“Yeah. But I’m in the army. Fuck man!!!!”.

(He holds up his palm. I give him a high five). “Yeah. You’re in the army. Fuck man”. Explaining that I am completely opposed to compulsory military service as a matter of high principle and I therefore completely support his feelings would probably be excessive.

I go on my way, hoping that the safety was firmly in place on his rifle throughout all this.

My year in travel

yir_barcelonaBarcelona, Catalonia. January 2014

yir_wawa1Warsaw, Poland. January 2014

yir_senakiSenaki, Georgia. January 2014

yir_denhaagDen Haag, Netherlands. February 2014

mosc4Moscow, Russia. March 2014

yir_londonLondon, England. April 2014

yir_vilnius2Vilnius, Lithuania. May 2014

yir_brest2Brest, Belarus. May 2014

yir_krakowKraków, Poland. May 2014

yir_jerusalemJerusalem. May 2014

kirzatluzaKirzat Luza, Samaria. May 2014

pal3Sebastia, Palestine. May 2014

yir_jasKdumin, Judea and Samaria. May 2013

yir_israelZihron Ya’akov, Israel. May 2013

yir_belBelgrade, Serbia. June 2013

yir_srpskaIstočno Sarajevo, Republika Srpska. June 2014

yir_mostarMostar, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. June 2014

yir_hvarStari Grad, Hvar Island, Croatia. July 2014

yir_turdaTurda, Romania. July 2014

yir_chisinauChisinau, Moldova. July 2014

yir_odessaOdessa, Ukraine. August 2014

fuc2Fiumicino, Italy. September 2014

yir_carthageCarthage, Tunisia. September 2014

yir_rubicSavignano Sul Rubicone, Italy. October 2014

yir_sanmarinoSan Marino. October 2014

yir_brightonPeoples Trotskyist Republic of Brighton. November 2014

yir_biertanValea Viilor, Transylvania. December 2014

Samizdata quote of the day

If someone has “Ambassador” in their job title, address them as “Your Excellency”. That’ll stop it.

– Guy Herbert, in response to this.

Samizdata quote of the day

Life in New Malden is just unimaginably better than in that in North Korea

– North Korean defector Kim Joo-il, stating the obvious from (where else) suburban London.

A plug for a talk, and some background

I am giving a talk at a Libertarian Home meeting at the Rose and Crown pub in Southwark this Thursday evening the 2nd of October. (All welcome. Please come). The initial motivation for this talk was to attempt to shed some light on the causes of the current war in Ukraine. When I thought about is some more, I realised that while the Ukrainian situation is interesting (in an extraordinarily depressing way) the subject is more interesting in the broader context of Russian relations with the countries of the former USSR in general.

As it happens, I have spent a lot of time travelling in the countries of the former USSR. In the last year I have been to Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Lithuania, as well as the two most significant countries that are now in NATO and the EU, but which were formerly communist and Warsaw pact (Poland and Romania). With the exception of Belarus and Russia itself, these countries were not new to me – I have visited all of the others multiple times in the last five years, as well as every other formerly communist country in Europe. I have also visited the breakaway / Russian occupied territories of Transnistria in Moldova and Abkhazia in Georgia. I have seen a lot, and learned a lot, and this helps greatly in trying to understand what is going on. (To my great regret, I do not speak Russian. I would no doubt have learned a lot more if I did).

I have been told to talk for 20 to 30 minutes. I have chosen a gigantic subject for this length. I only have time to give a quick impression of each country, I fear, and a brief attempt to tie things together. For these impressions to make any sense at all, some historical and cultural background is necessary. Therefore, I am writing this article as a brief primer, and hopefully something that people will find interesting in its own right. People who wish to add things, disagree with things, tell me I am completely wrong etc in the comments are most welcome. I a not going to talk about communism at all. I am going to talk about everything in terms of ethnic nationalism and territorial changes.

→ Continue reading: A plug for a talk, and some background

Peculiarly named menswear stores – an occasional Samizdata series

wncs

Minsk, Belarus. May 2014

Ah yes. Marc O’Polo, the great Irish explorer who travelled to and returned from the O’Rient.

Health and safety law in action

All eggs that are sold in the United States would be illegal according to European health regulations.

Also, all eggs that are sold in Europe would be illegal according to US health regulations.

Blessed are the cheese exporters

Apparently, there is a tremendous run on high quality cheese going on in Moscow. This wonderful range of delectable products is vanishing rapidly from supermarket shelves as customers stock up before the sanctions that Russia is imposing on Russia come into force.

The blistering English heatwave

Yesterday, after a walk in the warm weather, I went into a pub. I am going to name and shame here – it was the King William IV in Chigwell. It’s a nice place with fancy decor, an elaborate menu and London prices. I attempted to order a pint of lager.

However, beer was only coming out of the taps in a little dribble. One of the staff members vanished for a few minutes, returned, shook his head to one of his colleagues, and came over to me and said something along the lines of “Sorry, we are having a little bit of trouble with the draught beer due to the temperature in the cellar. This means that the beer is not coming through to the taps. It’s the hot weather, see”.

The temperature was a horrific 32 degrees Celsius – 89 degrees Fahrenheit. As an Australian, I would describe this as fairly warm but not especially hot. In England, though, it becomes quite unpleasant, due to the lack of any infrastructure for dealing with it, for instance the ability to provide beer when temperatures go over 30. (Cold drinks in newsagents and other shops are normally kept in strange cooling devices that are open to the air, rather than in proper refrigerators with closed doors. These lose the ability to keep drinks cold when the weather gets hot – ie when you most want your drink to be cold). Buildings simply aren’t designed to keep heat out, nor are they designed to be easily cooled when it gets in.

I could just say that the English inability to deal with warm but not especially hot weather is simply a consequence of their not hot climate, but then one also must think about the English inability to deal with cool but not especially cold weather, their inability to deal with weather that is a bit wet but not especially stormy, and indeed to deal with weather that is dry but not especially droughty.

Seriously, though, a pub that cannot provide beer when the temperature gets over 30 belongs in an Australian comedy sketch.