Notes V  





Grimm Bolsheviks, faithfully paraphrasing Leon Trotsky.


Part I   Notes I
Part II
Notes II
Part III
Notes III
Part IV
   Notes IV
Part V
   Notes V
Part VI
   Notes VI
Part VII
   Notes VII
   Notes VIII
Part IX
   Notes IX
Part X
   Notes X
Part XI
   Notes XI
Part XII
   Notes XII

©, Acknowledgments
The Author





See note to line 1,001.


The great Achilles, whom Opinion crownes,
The sinew, and the fore-hand of our Hoste,
Hauing his eare full of his ayery Fame,
Growes dainty of his worth, and in his Tent
Lyes mocking our designes. With him, Patroclus,
Vpon a lazie Bed, the liue-long day
Breakes scurrill Iests,
And with ridiculous and aukward action,
(Which Slanderer, he imitation call's)
He Pageants vs. Sometime great Agamemnon,
Thy toplesse deputation he puts on;
And like a strutting Player, whose conceit
Lies in his Ham-string, and doth thinke it rich
To heare the woodden Dialogue and sound
'Twixt his stretcht footing, and the Scaffolage,
Such to be pittied, and ore-rested seeming
He acts thy Greatnesse in: and when he speakes,
'Tis like a Chime a mending. With tearmes vnsquar'd,
Which from the tongue of roaring Typhon dropt,
Would seemes Hyperboles. At this fusty stuffe,
The large Achilles (on his prest-bed lolling)
From his deepe Chest, laughes out his lowd applause,
Cries excellent, 'tis Agamemnon iust.
Now play me Nestor; hum, and stroke thy Beard
As he, being drest to some Oration:


       129   Jim

James Joyce. The famous remark of Stephen Dedalus to the anti-Semitic Mr Deasy, in the second chapter or episode of Ulysses:

"History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake."

       141   thesis, synthesis, antithesis

Hegel-wreckage. According to antonym theory, burning raked leaves at night is photoantithesis; but does it follow that we must spread this sticky lotion on our subsequent moonburn?

Scattered leaflets, footprinted, are figured with diagrams: branching logic-charts that look much more complicated than they are.

A rambling letter I received four or five years ago from a young friend--too young to know better at the time--contained this apostrophe to political power: "Free us enough to eat. Help extend us; but admit you are not all. No incised dialectic. No 'draw the map first, force the country to it.' People suffer from such mappery...! 'O kind dreams, O nightmare implementations....'" And: "My people are tired. Your people are tired. Our people. Tired and cold! Help or leave us thoughtfully alone. Don't reduce it to this cruel simplicity...."


       155   statue

Statues came down in 1918, too.


       177   Verst

Russian measure of distance; roughly two-thirds of a mile.


       178   Superessives

Grammatical cases expressing a position above or on top of.


       182   Homer Pushkin

Conflation of an American, Homer Adolph Plessy (dates of birth and death unknown)--probably a carpenter from New Orleans--who, with the support of Comité des Citoyens, a New Orleans organization of African-Americans, became the plaintiff in a U.S. Supreme Court decision with terrible ramifications; and a Russian, Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837), author of Eugene Onegin and other works, long revered as "Russia's greatest poet." Both men were Caucasians of partly African descent via a great-grandparent. Pushkin's great-grandfather, Abram Gannibal, was from Abyssinia. Enslaved and brought to Russia, he was freed and subsequently adopted as a godchild by Peter the Great (1672-1725; Tsar from 1689-1725). See Pushkin's unfinished story "The Blackamoor of Peter the Great," and Vladimir Nabokov's essay on Abram Gannibal, appended to Nabokov's translation of Eugene Onegin.

Plessy v. Ferguson is the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court decision that, as the 20th century was about to begin, validated the "separate but equal" doctrine--supporting institutionalized racism (including state and local "Jim Crow" laws, voter registration laws that circumvented African-American suffrage, and the segregation of the federal armed forces). Plessy "looked white," but was an "octoroon," and known to have African blood. When he refused to move to a "colored" car of the East Louisiana Railway train on which he was a paying passenger, he was arrested. The Court decided in favor of Judge John H. Ferguson of the Criminal District Court for the Parish of New Orleans, who had found Plessy guilty of violating an 1890 Louisiana state law, "An Act To Promote the Comfort of Passengers." With a single decision, the court of last resort reneged on Reconstruction, voiding the promises of the 15th Amendment, while making a farce of the 14th.

Justice John Marshall Harlan, the former slaveowner from Kentucky who cast the sole dissenting vote, wrote in his opinion: " the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. is, therefore, to be regretted that [the Supreme Court] has reached the conclusion that it is competent for a state to regulate the enjoyment by citizens of their civil rights solely on the basis of race." (That sense of the word enjoy is very good.) "The arbitrary separation of citizens, on the basis of race, while they are on a public highway, is a badge of servitude wholly inconsistent with the civil freedom and the equality before the law established by the constitution. It cannot be justified on legal grounds. ...The judgment this day rendered will, in time, prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott case" [in which it was ruled that no slave or descendant of slaves was a citizen of the United States--stripping away the few rights then left to African-Americans. Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote explicitly in Dred Scott v. Sanford that the many Americans with African ancestors had "no rights any white man is bound to respect"].

Justice Harlan's dissenting opinion continues: "In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful.

"We boast of the freedom enjoyed by our people over all other peoples. But it is difficult to reconcile that boast with a state of law which, practically, puts the brand of servitude and degradation upon a large class of our fellow citizens--our equals before the law. The thin disguise of 'equal' accommodations for passengers in railroad coaches will not mislead anyone, nor atone for the wrong this day done."

The theme of common travel, "race" with "race," in the history of the African-American civil rights movement, initiated in Dred Scott v. Sanford (the issue of travel to a free state), continued in Plessy v. Ferguson (the issue of unrestricted accommodations in train travel), is picked up in the 1950s with the issue of Linda Brown's schoolbus ride (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954), and culminates in Montgomery, Alabama with Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and most of the city's African-American citizens--"tired of being kicked about by the brutal feet of oppression"--and their successful boycott of the Montgomery City Lines bus company.

As Lt. Tomás Hob of the Arkansas National Guard later remarked, "We have always traveled together on this continent, through space and time, through history, through one another's ways and bloodlines: now we move closer to admitting it."


       183   LINCOLN FREES SLAVS. 

Forty million Russian serfs were liberated in March, 1861 by Aleksandr II (four years after the U.S. Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision of March 6,1857); some African-American slaves were "released from their bondage and into a troubled freedom" by executive order of Abraham Lincoln, almost two years later, on January 1, 1863. Many others remained enslaved for three more years, until the ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 18,1865.


       184-185   E.A. Gogol's Masque of the Red Death...Twice-Told Tales

Conflation of Poe, Gogol, and Hawthorne.


       186   Peter Michailoff

Peter the Great's incognito during his travels in Europe. He worked as a ship's carpenter in shipyards in England and Holland, and while in those countries studied European technology, printmaking techniques, and human and animal anatomy.



Government ... Petersburg, District of Columbia...

Two capitals founded amid swamps, on rivers (St. Petersburg in 1703, on the Neva; Washington, D.C. in 1790, on the Potomac). The Russian parliament and the American president's residence are both "the White House."

(See note to line 8.)   




Dr. Evgenii Bótkin was the personal physician to the last Tsar, Nicholas II; he was murdered along with the Tsar and his family in Ekaterinberg in the early morning of July 17, 1918, and buried with them, temporarily, near a group of large pines that grew from a single root, known locally as the "Four Brothers"--where his false teeth were later found, along with other remains, including a severed finger and some stray jewelry, by White Russian investigators in 1919.

There is a pronounced dental theme in Russo-American literature.


       194-195   Greensborograd-REFUSENIKS...LUNCHEONETTE

Refuseniks were Soviet citizens who were forbidden to emigrate or to travel outside the country.

On February 1, 1960, Ezell Blair, Jr., Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond, African-Americans, all freshman students from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (A&T) in Greensboro, North Carolina, bought a few trifling items in the Woolworth's downtown and then sat down at its "whites only" counter; they ordered coffee.

They were politely refused service ("I'm sorry, but we don't serve colored here"). Student sit-ins spread across the south.

I had an excellent lunch at that same lunchcounter with my cousin, my wife, and a number of "white" and "black" strangers of various bloodtypes, all placidly eating side by side, 96 years after Plessy v. Fergusen. (I recommend the chocolate milkshake, an American specialty made with vanilla ice cream, milk, and chocolate syrup: served very cold in a tall, stainless steel mixing container; then poured slowly--always with some left over--into a tall glass.)

Greensboro was also the site of the November 3, 1979 massacre--by 40 heavily-armed members of the North Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and their allies, the National Socialist Party of America--of five unarmed members of the Communist Workers Party, during a Workers Party rally against the Klan. Among those slain were black and white, Jewish and Gentile, Spanish-speaking and non-Spanish-speaking, male and female, American citizens; two were doctors. Of sixteen Klansmen and neo-Nazis arrested for murder, six were brought to trial; all pleaded self-defense. They were acquitted. ("The only thing the Klan is guilty of is poor shooting," commented one prospective juror.) In a subsequent trial, on federal civil rights charges, five of the defendants were acquitted; one was sentenced to six months in a work-release program. (See Ku Klux Klan: An Encyclopedia, Michael Newton and Judy Newton, 1991.)

A bronze plaque outside of the Greensboro Woolworth's commemorates the famous 1960 sit-in; it does not appear to have been provided by an official agency of the state.


       196-197   Chernobyl, Pennsylvania...disavow

Chernobyl conflated with Three Mile Island. The Chernobyl disaster of April 25-26, 1986 is (as of 1997)the worst accident at a nuclear power plant; one explosion threw radioactive debris a mile into the atmosphere. (For an idea of the incredible extent of this disaster, see John May, The Greenpeace Book of the Nuclear Age.)

The Three Mile Island accident of March 28, 1979, was found in 1982 to have been a much more precarious escape from catastrophe than scientists had at first realized: a remote-control camera sent to investigate the reactor discovered a meltdown of more than half of the core--which had almost burned through the steel reactor vessel. The damage was so bad that one engineer wondered "Why wasn't there core on the floor?"

Soviet authorities were first silent, then evasive, then downplayed the extent of the accident.

U.S. Government, Pennsylvania, MetEd, and General Public Utilities Company authorities were first silent, then evasive, then downplayed the extent of the accident.



On March 28, 1922, at a speech on "America and the Restoration of Russia" in Berlin, exiled Russian statesman Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov, born July 20, 1870, former Duma member, jurist, and chancellor of the first Provisional Government after the February 1917 Revolution, attempted to disarm an assassin who had fired on the speaker (a political adversary of V.D. Nabokov's); whereupon a second assassin leapt onstage and fired three times at Nabokov. This pair of murderers, later identified as rightwing fanatics, attempted to flee; after more gunfire, wounding more people, they were arrested.

V.D. Nabokov died on the spot.


       205   Pushkin

See note to line 182.   





Russian: the opposite of glasnost; secrecy.




Berlin Wall

Opened November 9, 1989. No connection with Irving Berlin (Israel Baline), 1888-1989, born in Temum, Russia, American songwriter, author of (among many, many other songs in English) "The Russian Lullaby," which is neither Russian nor a lullaby, but a fast-paced song--existing in an especially wonderful version sung by Jimmy Rushing, 1903-1972, famous African-American jazz and blues singer, in New York City on June 19, 1959 (with Buddy Tate on tenor saxophone, Sir Charles Thompson on organ, Skeeter Best on guitar, Gene Ramey on string bass, and Jo Jones on drums)--which includes the poignant lyric:

Rock-a-bye, my baby;
Somewhere there may be
A land that's free for you and me
And a Russian lullaby.



       208   Boris

Boris Godunov, Pushkin's play of 1831, on which Musorgski's opera was based.

Boris Godunov was Tsar of Russia from 1598 to 1605, elected by a national assembly (he had served as regent). There was famine during his reign. His legitimacy as Tsar was assaulted by a pretender in the last years of Godunov's reign; the "time of troubles" followed his death.

Boris Yeltsin was elected Chairman of the ruling presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Republic, May 29, 1990. On Dec. 25, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which ceased to exist on January 1, 1992.


       213   What is this, Russia, or America?

A question once beloved of U.S. civil libertarians. See note to line 238.




According to a somewhat folkloristic e-mail (origin unknown; forwarded by a friend), the Interstate Highway System--a cold war artifact more formally known as the Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways--is designed so that one mile in every five is "straight and flat enough to land a B-52 on." Not long ago, visions of United States federal highways being used as airstrips in times of National Emergency did not seem so strange.

Between 29 November 1960 and 4 December 1961, for instance, work was progressing on the MK 53, a class "C" aerial bomb with a nine-megaton yield (equivalent of 9,000,000 tons of TNT, or the weapon detonated over Hiroshima--which yielded 15,000 tons--multiplied by 600). The same warhead was later fixed (until late 1987) atop the Titan II intercontinental ballistic missiles kept alert in silos around the United States, pointed at targets--cities, other weapons, industries--in the Soviet Union. According to Chuck Hansen's excellent US Nuclear Weapons: The Secret History (Aerofax, Arlington Texas, 1988), "The bomb is characterized as having 'a fragile skin and an unusual center of gravity'...[and] features a 'false nose'...of frangible aluminum honeycomb for impact absorption and shock mitigation." Hansen goes on to note: "When the MK 53s are finally disassembled (and with the corresponding retirement of the last W-53 Titan II ICBM missile warheads) an era will pass: the time of the heavy multimegaton U.S. thermonuclear warhead, an age that started more than thirty years ago, will finally be at an end."

The MK 53 was proof-fired during 1962's Operation Dominic. Two Operation Dominic nuclear weapons tests happened to frame an extraordinary publishing event at the end of April, 1962: Adobe, a free-fall airburst detonated at 2,725 feet above the Pacific, near Christmas Island; and Aztec, detonated at 2,820 feet. Each predawn explosion produced a 60,000-foot mushroom cloud:

One observer stated that the "entire Pacific, as far as one could see, (became) brighter than daylight...The entire sky would remain illuminated for...more than a minute, then the light would a deflating balloon, coming back in from the horizon until it was (dark) again."

Collapsing light.



       218   Glare ice...A Peterbilt

Glare ice: a thin transparent ice that forms on asphalt highways, making driving exceptionally risky and difficult; it is not easy to detect.

Peterbilt: an excellent American make of truck


       221   Podwig

Russian: gallant feat, great exploit. Title of a Russian novel (written in Berlin) first published in 1932 (English translation Glory, 1971) by Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, Russian and American author (1899-1977). Glory (and, presumably, its to me indecipherable Russian original) contains a "dark path" that disappears into a fir wood in a painting within a story. See Dark Ice, IX, for a coincidental theme.


       238   America. It couldn't happen here.

An answer once beloved of complacent U.S. citizens. See note to line 213.




See Pnin, 1957, a novel in English by Vladimir Nabokov, for an etymology.




     Notes IV       Notes VI