1. Please be warned that when it comes to me and my peeps, we supposedly possess “underlying cultural and psychological qualities,” which include “an overriding egoism,” “a pervasive unease about the nature of the world in which one lives,” and “a general incomprehension of causality.”
2. From worst, to best; this may be the absolute best written diplomatic cable in the entire treasure trove of diplomatic cables, courtesy of William Burns, whom I might vote for in an election for just about any political office. I had no idea that there were “Persian-speaking Mountain Jews” in Dagestan; one hopes that they are free of “overriding egoism,” “a pervasive unease about the nature of the world in which one lives,” and “a general incomprehension of causality.” In any event, the following passage from the Burns cable is magnificent beyond belief:
¶11. (C) Though Gadzhi’s house was not the venue for the main wedding reception, he ensured that all his guests were constantly plied with food and drink. The cooks seemed to keep whole sheep and whole cows boiling in a cauldron somewhere day and night, dumping disjointed fragments of the carcass on the tables whenever someone entered the room. Gadzhi’s two chefs kept a wide variety of unusual dishes in circulation (in addition to the omnipresent boiled meat and fatty bouillon). The alcohol consumption before, during and after this Muslim wedding was stupendous. Amidst an alcohol shortage, Gadzhi had flown in from the Urals thousands of bottles of Beluga Export vodka (“Best consumed with caviar”). There was also entertainment, beginning even that day, with the big-name performers appearing both at the wedding hall and at Gadzhi’s summer house. Gadzhi’s main act, a Syrian-born singer named Avraam Russo, could not make it because he was shot a few days before the wedding, but there was a “gypsy” troupe from St. Petersburg, a couple of Azeri pop stars, and from Moscow, Benya the Accordion King with his family of singers. A host of local bands, singing in Avar and Dargin, rounded out the entertainment, which was constant and extremely amplified.
Make it a priority to read the whole thing.
4. I am late to this, but I hope and expect that Irvin Kershner is now more powerful than we can possibly imagine.
6. A very happy birthday to Mark Twain. Would that he had a happier life.