I was recently reading the Facebook news and was shocked to find that Russian Mikhail Kalishnikov will be speaking at the Northwestern commencement address. I had likely received this information in the sprinkling of Northwestern news and race-scandal e-bulletins sometime in the past 48 hours, mailed direct to my spam folder. It was as I finished reading the title of the article and promptly commenced writing this article that I found the selection odd. (Are moments that happened within the past minute and a half, thoughts still knocking around in your skull, considered the past or present? They haven't stopped happening, but they definitely started in a period before the present.)1
Not only was I blown away that they had managed to book the 65-year-old former former Soviet Union athlete/ballerino/Magic Mikhail spinoff Caucasus Films production co-star, but that Morty was willing to pay the postage for correspondence to Siberia. I guess I gave him more credit, but than again I am a Sherman Ave writer.
I've got to say I'm pleased with the selection. His lines are perfect. His transitions midair conjure the slow graceful wilting of the cultivated flower. Out of a society built from the furnaces of Stalingrad and the agro-farms of the vast western plain, he provided a living testament to the presence of beauty among mechanized perfection. But his motherland fell and now sells phosphates and peasant women to pay off its unchecked soup expenditures (which are only expected to rise in coming decades). The US was left without a world power to compete with and the blind forward march of the American Union will offer a great temptation to Northwestern graduates. Will any of them have the strength to channel grace into a graceless land? Will they hear Mikhail's words or will they listen?
Two parting thoughts. One: I was frequenting a jazz club in Prague one evening in November when I was passed a note by a prostitute in her mid-thirties. “Are you Russian?” I continued the charade with this Czech jizzgargler, receiving a number, being introduced to her strongly built “friend” in the bar, and ultimately denying the invitation to what would have certainly been an interesting evening. That first question stuck with me, however. Do Russians often frequent jazz bars for solicited sex? How much of the Prague sex trade is financed by the ruble?
Now the question naturally has turned to why glorious Mikhail, in the prime of his career, accepted an invitation from a second-rate American university in the 3rd greatest city of the country to speak jilted English to a crowd of sycophants. Uncultured, mechanized sycophants who've never exhibited grace in their lives. Who find meaning from Cracked posts and self-esteem from draping their leg-stuffed leggings over lesser male-units. Who could never recognize the love incarnate of a vodka-blurred night with a Czech prostitute and jazz aficionado.
Two: The tech crew won't have to switch podiums for Morty and the keynote speaker this time around. Which'll be nice.
1 English is the linguistic grandchild of the descendants of Huns who decided that they'd rather copulate with their cousins on an island than try and make it in society. Then the poorest of their descendants decided the place discovered a few years ago would be a better bet than a 2nd rate island society. We are the descendants of the poorest of the people who tried to speak the peasant version of the language of the descendants of illiterate people.