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I'm surprised it hasn't come up yet

I suppose that one day soon I'll go into detail here about the year I spent in Latvia, where I learned how easy it is to fall deeply in love with a place. At which point I'll write things such as

The silence of the birch forest captured the barest hint of our footsteps on the mossy ground. They were strangers to me: Agnese barefoot, leaping over pine needles; Igors stooping low in the distance in search of mushrooms. A row of fir trees obscured from view the slip of a path that would pour our giddy and breathless bodies out onto the thin strip of beach, to the sprawling Baltic Sea.
Men in felt boots hauled the sacks of our gathered potatoes up onto the tractor, the dimming October light seeping across the field, casting mechanical shadows. The other women were bent in half, fingers nimbly sieving the dirt; I knelt in the field and dug my arms in up to the elbows, overturning only dead moles and small, misshapen tubers, bit by the plow.
and other such sentimental, nostalgic, Tarkovskian drivel. Or not.

But that is for another day. I mention Latvia today because three links I wanted to share are all connected by some sort of Soviet theme, and the first comes from Latvia.

My favorite Latvian blogger has scanned his copy of a Soviet science book for children (roughly translated, the title means It Is Even Farther To Earth, or, perhaps better: Earth Is Still A Long Way Off). The art on pages like this is fantastic.

As are these Soviet-era bus stops. (via Langour Management)

In Slate, meanwhile, Keith Gessen (translator of Svetlana Alexievich's Voices from Chernobyl and a really nice guy to boot) reviews the new Martin Amis book. I never made it through London Fields, the only Amis I've attempted, so I don't have much to say about the guy, although I do find his current obsession with Stalin kind of, um, kooky. The review makes for an interesting read even for those who couldn't care less about the new Martin Amis book; Keith's insight into Tolstoy's reasons for writing the character of Anna, for example, are spot on (first paragraph). Tolstoy's ulterior motives are probably why Levin's scenes stole the show, for me at least. Or maybe it's just my love of scenes involving that place, people working the fields, the perimeter marked by a strict and solemn forest of birch trees...


Graphic Translations

In the jackhammering chaos, I nearly forgot a link: the February issue of Words Without Borders is up, featuring graphic writing (the non-blue, work-safe, artistic type) from around the world. The David B. piece is my favorite.



Links for stuffing into my ears, like sweet, sweet cotton balls

Seeing as someone decided to start jackhammering holes in the street outside our windows at 3am and I have been awake pretty much ever since, I decided to use this precious morning hour (can you hear Grieg’s “Morning” playing in the background?) to post some Monday links, instead of sleeping, and instead of screaming out my window at men who are just doing their jobs.

I wonder how Simon Pegg would treat the situation? If only the Hot Fuzz would have answered my 311 call.

Two more from the Guardian: The reading habits of UK train riders, and the guilty pleasures of intellectuals. Steven Pinker likes the lexical semantics problem posed by rock lyrics. Bernard-Henri Lévy likes SAS spy novels. Christopher Hitchens likes “The Simpsons.” John Berger takes to biking when he doesn’t feel like being intellectual. And Antonia Fraser shares my love for Gary Cooper.

The New York Times looks into the influence of food bloggers, and also reviews the book I almost bought in Heathrow and now, in spite of the review’s perplexingly lukewarm final paragraph, wish I definitely had: Rachel Cusk’s Arlington Park (about disgruntled 30-something mothers - because everything I seem to want to read these days is so incredibly uplifting).

Finally, since it’s the only bit I managed to really watch, I totally agree with the high praise for Prince's halftime show. (ADDED THOUGHT: I wonder how many Americans, like me, were inspired to bring "Purple Rain" with them to work today...)

That’ll do. I’m off to stuff as many objects into my ears as I can find.


Sunday Zen


Meanwhile, he lets his pants do whatever they want

TheHusband: You, Green 23. Be prepared for battle. And you? The grey one with the 45 insert on it? I want you with him. I'll be calling one of you up for duty tomorrow, and you'd better be on the ball. Airport Terminal, I'm resting you. I have another one of you and you've seen too much action.

Me: I am so going to tell the world that you were shouting army commands at your t-shirts to dry faster.