Best Nickname Ever

When I was in school, I always considered History to be one of the easiest subjects, and also one of the most boring ones. Most teachers that I had concentrated on having us memorize facts and dates, and did not really try to make History interesting. I did have a couple of good History teachers in college, one of whom won a Pulitzer prize. Another made me regret not having the time to get a proper classical education.

In any case, the biggest problem I have with history books is that everything in them is sanitized. I like my historical works HBO-style, with all the filth intact, like in Deadwood and Rome.

Let me give you an example. I was reading “The Tolstoys: Twenty Four Generations of Russian History” by Nikolai Tolstoy-Miloslavsky. The Tolstoy family were always very important in Russian history. They seem to possess some talents that seem to be passed on genetically. These talents seem to fall into three categories: writing, politics, and to the lesser extent art. From founding the fist Russian secret police, through writing dozens of world-changing books, to revolutionizing Russian web design, Tolstoys left a deep mark. By reading this book I understood how much this one family line changed Russia and the world.

But what I found the most enjoyable was not that, but a little episode about Ilya Miloslavskiy, the book author’s illustrious ancestor. Boyar Miloslavskiy was sort of an olde tyme oligarch. In 1600s he headed all of Russia’s most important (and profitable) ministries, Military, Medical, Treasury, etc. He was a man of limitless appetites, and stole amazing amount of money. Miloslavsky’s boss, tzar Alexei was not bothered as much by stealing, as he was by amoral behavior.

Tolstoy quotes Dr. Collins, a royal physician and apparently Miloslavsky’s employee:

“at last perceiving Eliah too kind to some of his Tartar and Polish slaves, he urged him (being and old Widdower) either to marry or refrain the Court. For the Russians highly extoll marriage, partly to people their Territories, and partly to prevent Sodomy and Buggery, to which they are naturally inclined, nor is it punished there with Death. A lusty Fellow about eight years since being at this beastly sport with a Cow, cry’d to one that saw him ‘Ne Mishchay, do not interrupt me; and now he is known by no other name over all Muscovy, than ‘Ne Mishchay’ “.

Rupert Murdoch the Communist

Do you know the famous misquote that goes something like: “A young man who isn’t a socialist hasn’t got a heart; an old man who is a socialist hasn’t got a head”?

Well, apparently, at some point young Rupert Murdoch was a huge fan of Lenin. The following quote is from Murdoch: Revised and Updated, page 38:

“He added an an extraordinary postscript, written in magenta ink, reaffirming his loyalty to Lenin. “Yesterday was the 29th anniversary of the Great Teacher. We stood to attention for one minute in front of THE BUST on the mantelpiece and drank several toasts-and then settled down to some good reading of adulatory Russian poetry.””

Picturing Rupert reading “adulatory Russian poetry” and owning a bust of Lenin brings a tear to my eye.

Young Count Leo Tolstoy

For years I’ve been reading Count Nikolai Tolstoy’s “The Tolstoys, twenty-four generations of Russian history, 1353-1983” on and off. Amongst other interesting and surprising things that I’ve learned from the book was what Leo Tolstoy looked like when he was young. I used to think of him as and intense old dude sporting Karl Marx/Saddam in hiding/Fidel Castro hairstyle. It turns out that in his youth he looked more like Matt Damon:

Dreamblog: Having a Ball

Two nights in a row I had dreams about attending balls. The first dream had me hanging out with Count Pyotr Andreyevich Tolstoy in 1700s. This is pretty easy to explain — I am reading a book about the Tolstoys.

This morning I had another dream, where I was at a Newscorp ball at the Hilton and talked to Rupert Murdoch. He completely agreed with all the things that I proposed to be done at TV Guide and I woke up very pleased with myself.

Dream A Little Dream Of S-40

If you’ve been readin my journal for a while, you might know how important dreams are to me.

There are a lot of important and famous dreams recorded in history – Mendeleev seeing the periodic table; Kekule seeing the worm Oroborous and understanding the benzine ring; Chief Sitting Bull seeing soldiers falling upside down and predicting victory of the Little Big Horn, Hitler seeing the trench engulfed in molten lava in his dream and leaving it thus saving himself, Julius Caesar having a dream in which one website that will be left unnamed says “his mother appeared” and then “taking” Rome, etc.

Over the weekend I was reading Igor Sikorsky, His Three Careers in Aviation by Frank DeLear, and in it was an example of a forshadowing dream that I haven’t encountered before.

The book says that when he was 11 years old, Sikorsky had a dream in which he was standing in a narrow passageway. There was a bluish light overhead and the floor with a fine carpet under his feet. The floor was vibrating, but for some reason he immediately realized that it wasn’t a train or a boat, but a flying machine. He walked through to a door that led to a richly decorated lounge and then woke up. Since he was born in 1889, this would make it the year of 1900 when he had the dream. The Wright Brothers flight was three years away.

Years later, in America Sikorsky was walking through his latest design, the S-40 plane and was struck by a sense of deja vu. There it was, bluish light of fluorescent lamps overhead, the vibration and the fine carpet and even the smoking lounge at the end.

(the photo is from Igor Sikorsky, His Three Careers in Aviation) by Frank DeLear

Next in my reading queue: John C. Wright’s The Last Guardian of Everness – a fantasy that deals with dream worlds and such. Figures.

Bang! Zoom! To the Moon, Alice!

There is a big map of the Moon hanging above my bed. I bought it in Lowell Observatory’s gift shop. It hangs mostly as a decoration, I never spent much time studying it. My knowledge of Selenology is limited to being able to identify sea of Tranquility , sea of Crisis and craters Tycho and Copernicus. I suck.

Yesterday I was looking at the map. And here’s what I learned: right below Sea of Crises are seas of Waves (Undarum), Foam (Spumans) and Fertility (Fecunditatis). On most maps Fecunditatis is translated as “Fecundity“. One more SAT word.

And now – a Rorschach test.

I am planning on reviving Brooklyn College’s observatory. Unfortunately it has been closed for many years. When I asked to see it, I was told that inside everything is covered with pigeon poop and that it’s a health hazard. I never had the time to be more persistent in gaining access there, but maybe this year I’ll find some time. Supposedly there is a 7 inch planetary refractor there. I’ll have to spend some money and time, but it will be less than the price of such a scope, not even counting the fact that it’s in a rotating dome.

I think I’ll spend some time looking for TLPs, even though such research is poo-poohed by most astronomers.

One thing is for sure – I am going to invest in a nice lunar atlas. There are no good Moon maps on the Net.