EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

My first real memory may very well be the opening scene from Star Wars: A New Hope, in which, after the floating text tells us the world is at war, Darth Vader and his stormtroopers seize Princess Leia’s ship. While rebel soldiers line the hallways, stormtroopers blast open the air-locked door and begin firing lasers. A moment later, Vader comes through with his black mask and heavy breath, cape sweeping the ground behind him, and sometime after that we see lightsabers and landspeeders, X-wing and Tie-fighters, the Millennium Falcon and the Death Star, and I’ll say now “ignite” is too weak a word to apply to what that movie did to my imagination.

Suddenly we were all looking at the stars, wondering what went on above our heads. Or we were arguing if lightsabers were real, if we could learn to use the force to move things with our minds or convince our mothers to take us swimming if she said no the first time. I still wonder, occasionally, when I’ve left a light on after climbing into bed, if I couldn’t just turn it off with the wave of a hand. More… “Watching the Skies”

Paul Crenshaw’s essay collection This One Will Hurt You is forthcoming from The Ohio State University Press in spring 2019. Other work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Pushcart Prize, anthologies by Houghton Mifflin and W.W. Norton, Oxford American, Ecotone, Brevity, North American Review, and Glimmer Train, among others. @PaulCrenstorm

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
communist symbol as a question mark
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

Until January 27, 1973, all young men were required to register for the Selective Service and were eligible to be drafted into military service. A month after I had turned 18 in 1955, I received my letter telling me to report for the mandatory Selective Service physical and registration . . . After my physical examination, I stood totally naked in a line with 24 other young men on the third floor of my Selective Service Center, when a sergeant with a clipboard approached and asked several people to step forward. My name was the first he called. There were other names, but I paid no attention after he called mine.

I had been poked and prodded. I had peed in a cup, bent and spread my cheeks, and had my testicles held while I coughed. I had no doubt about the physical exam. I was on the University of Illinois wrestling team, lifted weights every day, and was in excellent physical condition. I looked forward to my second year at the Chicago’s Navy Pier Campus of the University. More… “College Manifesto”

Mel Goldberg earned an MA in English. He has taught high school and college literature and writing in California, Illinois, Arizona and as a Fulbright Exchange Teacher at Stanground College in Cambridgeshire, England. With his life partner, artist Bev Kephart, they sold most of their possessions in Sedona, Arizona, and traveled in a small motor home for seven years throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. They now live in the village of Ajijic in Jalisco, Mexico. His stories and poetry now appear online and in print in The United States, The United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, and Mexico. His book of haiku, The Weight of Snowflakes, is available from Red Moon Press.

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

Outside the apartment window, at twilight, the trees of Sokolniki Park held the last oranges and reds of autumn, rhyming with the carrots, apples, and beets on the cutting board in front of me as we prepared dinner together, Jeremy and Natasha and I. I’d arrived in Russia earlier in fall 1992 on a Watson fellowship to study “Contemporary Russian Poetry and Its Relationship to Historical Change,” but I was feeling even more lost than when I’d arrived. Russian language, which I’d studied in college for four years, was a thicket that I’d tear myself through every day, trying to express the simplest things. And if the language weren’t thorny enough for me, I found navigating Russian bureaucracies and mentalities — whether train depots or library privileges — like a pathless wood. More… “Farther and Farther in Sokolniki”

Philip Metres is the author of Pictures at an Exhibition (2016), Sand Opera (2015), A Concordance of Leaves (2013), and To See the Earth (2008), etc. A recipient of the Lannan, two NEAs and two Arab American Book Awards, he is professor of English at John Carroll University.
http://www.philipmetres.com

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

In the Soviet Union, the name of the game was denunciation. One person would denounce another. A third person would denounce the second, i.e., the first denouncer. And so it went, the denunciations resulting in the executions of countless citizens, many — perhaps most — of them innocent. Others were sent to Siberia, which was simply a somewhat slower death. The game was an infinite recursion or regress, and if Boris Yeltsin had not mounted a tank to announce the end of the system, at some point there would have been nobody left to guard the crowded prisons. More… “The Soviet Illusion”

Kelly Cherry‘s new poetry book is Quartet for J. Robert Oppenheimer. Her book of flash fiction titled Temporium is now available.

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

The proxy war in Syria between Russia and Turkey is only the latest of many clashes between these two great powers. The Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 left its mark in Anglo-American literature and culture, when it inspired the British songwriter Percy French to write “Abdul Abulbul Amir,” a comic ballad about the fatal duel between an Ottoman soldier and a Russian soldier:

The sons of the Prophet are brave men and bold
And quite unaccustomed to fear,
But the bravest by far in the ranks of the Shah,
Was Abdul Abulbul Amir …

Now the heroes were plenty and well known to fame
In the troops that were led by the Czar,
And the bravest of these was a man by the name
Of Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

More… “The Re-Enchantment of Poetry”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

People — women in particular — have been making themselves up for centuries, often despite fear of public derision and threats to personal health. Makeup has been used as art and artifice, for subjugation and empowerment. Read about how it has changed through the years and how it looks today, as seen in the mirror of The Good Wife. (Open Letters Monthly, The Smart Set)

Blood may be thicker than water, but alcohol is stronger than both. Read about the truth and cliché of vodka in Russia and the hangover left by Prohibition in the United States. (Gastronomica, The Smart Set)

What do you do when you know you’re losing your mind? Read about a journalist who knows Alzheimer’s inside and out and a young, forgetful woman trying to ward it off. (Nautilus, The Smart Set) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

In the future, will God-fearing Russians defend Christianity against decadent, godless American atheists? The very question would have perplexed American Cold warriors who defended both America and Christianity against godless Russian communists in the 1950s and 1960s.

But consider the data. According to the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life, the number of Russians who call themselves Orthodox Christians rose from 31 percent in 1991 to 72 percent in 2008. In the 1970s, the exiled Soviet dissident novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn scandalized Western liberals and his Soviet persecutors alike by calling on Russians to return to their Orthodox Christian roots. Under Yeltsin and Putin, this appears to have occurred. Putin led the mourners at Solzhenitsyn’s funeral.

While Russians are rediscovering religion, Americans are abandoning it. Between 2007 and 2014, according to Pew, the number of Americans who identify themselves as Christians plunged from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent.
More… “The Future of God”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

Sports are full of clichés. Play one game at a time. Leave it all out on the field. There’s no “I” in team. Clichés allow fans to make sense of the unpredictable nature of athletic competition. Without them, how else would we be able to explain results that don’t make sense? How else did the underdog beat the favorite if they didn’t have more heart? The odd nature of sports clichés is that despite them being an exercise in generalities and vagueness, there can be truth behind them. There is a reason they became clichés in the first place. Sometimes a game isn’t just a game. Sometimes a basketball team isn’t just a basketball team. Sometimes a warm-up jersey isn’t just a warm-up jersey. The 1992 Lithuanian Olympic Basketball team wasn’t just a team who played in a game with an odd-looking warm-up jersey. They represented a whole lot more…. More…

The night was far from young when I flagged down what I thought was a typical gypsy cab in St. Petersburg, Russia, in early 2003. In fact, since the sun was just starting to show itself after the more than 16 hours of darkness that is the norm at that latitude at that time of year, suffice it to say that the night was actually dead. Luckily, though, I wasn’t, even after the fatal amount of vodka I had imbibed throughout the course of that long evening. But if the copious amounts of booze didn’t kill me, something else just might. Or maybe someone. Maybe even the man driving the silver Mercedes I had just gotten into. Hmm. Perhaps, this wasn’t a typical Russian gypsy cab, after all.

 

It didn’t take me long to come to that conclusion…. More…

 

The Republic of Abkhazia is one of the few countries, if you can call it that, where every tourist who shows up gets a handshake and a friendly chat with the deputy foreign minister. Or rather, it would be such a country, if it were a country at all. A wee seaside strip in the Republic of Georgia, Abkhazia hasn’t yet persuaded anyone to recognize its independence, even though it boasts many of the trappings of nationhood — a president, a parliament, and an army that guards the border in case the government in Tbilisi wants to invade again.

It also boasts grand natural beauty, an ambiguous history as a holiday playland of tyrants and diseased monkeys, and one of the most agreeable climates on earth. In Sukhumi, the capital, I can see why the Georgians have refused to give up Abkhazia without a fight. Wars break out naturally… More…